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P. W. JOYCE, M.A., LL.D., T.C.D. 

M.R.I. A. 

One of the Commissioners for the Publioation of 

the Ancient Laws of Ireland 
President of the Royal Society of Antiquaries, Ireland 

Author of 






'I shall tell you a pretty tale" 








AMONG the Celtic people of Ireland and the north- 
west of Scotland, story-telling has always been a 
favourite amusement. In the olden time, they had 
professional story-tellers, variously designated accord- 
ing to rank ollaves, shanachies, files, baids, etc. 
whose duty it was to know by heart a number of 
old tales, poems, and historical pieces, and to recite 
them at festive gatherings, for the entertainment of 
the chiefs and their guests. These story-tellers were 
always well received at the houses of princes and 
chiefs, and treated with much consideration ; and on 
occasions when they acquitted themselves well, so as 
to draw down the applause of the audience, they 
were often rewarded with costly presents. 

To meet the demand for this sort of entertainment, 
ingenious " men of learning," taking legends or his- 
torical events as themes, composed stories from time 
to time ; of which those that struck the popular fancy 
were caught up and remembered, and handed dowr. 



from one generation of story-tellers to another. In 
course of time, a body of romantic literature grew up, 
consisting chiefly of prose tales, which were classified, 
according to subject, into Battles, Voyages, Tragedies, 
Military Expeditions, Cattle-Raids, Courtships, Pursuits. 
Adventures, Visions, etc.* 

Some of these tales were historical, i.e. founded 
on historical events, and corresponded closely with 
what is now called the historical romance ; while 
others were altogether fictitious pure creations of the 
imagination. But it is to be observed that even in 
the fictitious tales, the main characters are always 
historical, or such as were considered so. The old 
ollaves wove their fictions round Conor Mac Nessa 
and his Red Branch Knights, or Finn and his Fena, 
or Luga of the Long Arms and his Dedannans, or Conn 
the Hundred-fighter, or Cormac Mac Art ; like the 
Welsh legends of Arthur and his Round Table, or the 
Arabian romances of Haroun-al-Raschid and his Court. 

The greater number of the tales were, as I have 
said, in prose. But some were in poetry ; and in 
many of the prose tales the leading characters are 
often made to express themselves in verse, or some 
striking incident of the story is repeated in a poetical 

* In the Book of Leinster, a manuscript now in Trinity College, 
Dublin, which was transcribed about the year 1130, there is a very 
interesting list of ancient historic tales 187 in all classified in the 
manner indicated above, which an ollave was obliged to master, 
so as to be able to repeat any one of them from memory, whenever 
his patron required him to do so. (See O'Curry, " Lectures on the 
MS. Materials of Irish History," pages 243 and 584.) 


form. Not unfrequently the fragments of verse 
introduced into a prose tale are quotations from an 
older poetical version of the same tale ; and hence it 
often happens that while the prose may be plain 
enough, the poetry is often archaic and obscure. 

At some very early period in Ireland how early 
we have now no means of determining with certainty 
1 Celtic thought began to be committed to writing ; 
and as everything seems to have been written down 
that was considered worth preserving, manuscripts 
accumulated in course of time, which were kept either 
in monasteries, or in the houses of the hereditary 
professors of learning. But in the dark time of the 
Danish ravages, and during the troubled centuries 
that followed the Anglo-Norman invasion, the manu- 
script collections were gradually dispersed, and a 
large proportion lost or destroyed. Yet we have 
remaining rescued by good fortune from the general 
wreck a great body of manuscript literature. Our 
two most important collections are those in Trinity 
College and in the Royal Irish Academy, Dublin ; 
where we have manuscripts of various ages, from the 
year 1100 down to the present century, on every 
conceivable subject Annals, History, Biography, 
Theology, Romance, Legend, Science, etc. These 
manuscripts, which, it should be remarked, are nearly 
all copies from older books, contain a vast collection 
oi romantic literature : it may, indeed, be said that 
there is scarcely one important event in our early 
history, or one important native personage or native 



legend, that has not been made the subject of some 
fanciful story. 

The volume I now offer to the notice of the public 
contains eleven tales, selected and translated from 
the manuscripts of Trinity College and of the Roya' 
Irish Academy. Some have been already published, 
with original text and literal translation, and are 
to be found in the Transactions of various literary 
societies, where, however, they are inaccessible to 
the general run of readers ; and even if they were 
accessible, they are almost unreadable, the transla- 
tions having been executed, not for literary, but for 
linguistic purposes. Others have never been trans- 
lated or given to the public in any shape or form 
till now. 

Of the whole collection of eleven tales, therefore, 
it may be saio! that they are quite new to the 
general mass of the reading public. And furthermore, 
this is the first collection of the old Gaelic prose 
romances that has ever been published in fail- English 

Scraps and fragments of some of these tales have 
been given to the world in popular publications, by 
writers who, not being able to read the originals, 
took their information from printed books in the 
English language. But I am forced to say that many 
of these specimens have been presented in a very 
unfavourable and unjust light distorted to make 
them look funny, and their characters debased to the 
mere modern conventional staire Irishman. There is 


none of this silly and odious vulgarity in the originals 
of these fine old tales, which are high and dignified 
in tone and feeling quite as much so as the old 
romantic tales of Greece and Rome.* 

A translation may either follow the very words, 01 
reproduce the life and spirit, of the original ; but no 
translation can do both. If you render word for word, 
you lose the spirit ; if you wish to give the spirit and 
manner, you must depart from the exact words, and 
frame your own phrases. I have chosen this latter 
course. My translation follows the original closely 
enough in narrative and incident ; but so far as mere 
phraseology is concerned, I have used the English 
language freely, not allowing myself to be trammelled 
by too close an adherence to the very words of the 
text The originals are in general simple in style; 
and I have done my best to render them into simple, 
plain, homely English. In short, I have tried to tell 
the stories as I conceive the old shanachies them- 
selves would have told them, if they had used English 
Instead of Gaelic. 

* Macpherson never sinned in this way. He caught the true key- 
note; and his "Poems of Ossian," however perverted in other 
respects, are always dignified in thought and expression. Among 
other examples of the true interpretation of the spirit of these old 
romances, prose and poetry, I may mention Miss Brooke's " Reliques 
of Irish Poetry," published in the end of the last century ; the Rev. 
Dr. Drummond's "Ancient Irish Minstrelsy," published in 1852; 
Lady Ferguson's graceful and interesting book, " The Story of the 
Irish before the Conquest" (1868); and Mr. Standish O'Grady's ably 
written volume, the " History of IreJand " (VoL I., The Heroic Period 

viii PREFACE. 

In the originals, the stories run on without break 
or subdivision ; * but I have thought it better to 
divide the longer ones into chapters, with appropriate 

In almost all cases I had at my command several 
copies of the same story, some of them differing in 
phraseology and in minor points of detail, though 
agreeing, in the main, in narrative and incident. I 
found this a considerable advantage, as it gave me 
more freedom in the choice of expression. 

I have made full use of the literal translations oi 
those tales that have been already published in the 
Transactions of the Ossianic Society, in the Atlantis, 
in the Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy, and 
in the Journal of the Royal Historical and Archaeo- 
logical Association of Ireland. But, in order to secure 
the advantage of vario'us readings, I compared, in every 
case, the published text with at least one copy of the 
story, in the Royal Irish Academy, in Trinity College, 
or in my own private manuscript collection. 

The ancient institution of professional story-telling 
held its ground both in Ireland and in Scotland down 
to a very recent period ; and it is questionable if it 
be even yet quite extinct. Within my own memory, 

* With one partial exception. In " The Book of the Dun Cow," 
" The Voyage of Maildnn " is divided into parts or chapters, which 
are numbered on the margin in Roman numerals each chapter 
relating to one particular island; but no spaces are left, and the 
chapters have no headings. In this ta?e T hr,ve followed the old 


this sort of entertainment was quite usual among the 
farming classes of the south of Ireland. The family 
and workmen, and any neighbours that chose to drop 
in, would sit round the kitchen fire after the day's 
work or perhaps gather in a barn on a summer o. r 
autumn evening to listen to some local shanachie re* 
citing one of his innumerable Gaelic tales. The story- 
teller never chose his own words he always had the 
story by heart, and recited the words from memory, 
often gliding into a sort of recitative in poetical 
passages, or when he came to some favourite grandiose 
description abounding in high-sounding alliterative 
adjectives. And very interesting it was to mark the 
rapt attention of the audience, and to hear their 
excited exclamations when the speaker came to relate 
some mighty combat, some great exploit of the hero, 
or some other striking incident. Three years ago, I 
met a man in Kilkee, who had a great number of these 
stories by heart, and who actually repeated for me, 
without the slightest hitch or hesitation, more than 
half and if I had not stopped him would have given 
me the whole of " Cuirt an Mheadhon-Oidhche " 
(" The Midnight Court "), a poem about six: times as 
long as Gray's " Elegy." 

I will now proceed to give a few particulars con- 
cerning these tales, including a short account of the 
manuscript or manuscripts from which each has been 



Among the ancient Gaelic tales, three were known as " the three 
most sorrowful (tales) of story-telling," or "The Three Tragic 
Stories of Erin ; " viz., " The Fate of the Children of Usna," " The 
Fate of the Children of Lir," and " The Fate of the Children of 
Turenn." I have not included the first in this volume, but a 
poetical version of it has been written and published by my 


Two translations of this tale have been published : one literal, 
with the Gaelic text, by Professor O'Curry, in the Atlantis (Nos. 
vii. and viii.) ; and another, less literal, by Gerald Griffin, in his 
" Tales of a Jury-Room." 

The oldest known copies of the tale are, one in the Catholic 
University, Dublin, made by Andrew Mac Curtin, a well-known 
Gaelic scholar and scribe of the county Clare, who lived between 
1680 and 1740 ; one in Trinity College, Dublin, made by Hugh 
O'Daly, in 1758 ; and one in the British Museum, made by Richard 
Tipper of Dublin, in 1718.f There is also a very good copy in the 
Royal Irish Academy (23. C. 26), of which I made considerable use, 
written in or about 1782, by Peter O'Connell, a good Gaelic 
scholar of the county Clare. From a comparison of several of 
these versions, O'Curry made his copy of the text as published in 
the Atlantis. 

There may be, and there probably are, older copies, in Trinity 
College, in the British Museum, or elsewhere, if we knew only 
where to find them. And this observation applies to several of the 
teles that follow, of which we have at hand only modern copies. 


In the Book of Lecan (folio 28), which was compiled by the Mac 
Firbises, about A.D. 1416, is a short account, partly in prose and 
partly in verse, of the celebrated eric-fine imposed on the three 

* "Deirdre," by Robert D. Joyce, M.D., M.E.I.A. Boston: 
Roberts Brothers. Dublin : M. H. Gill and Son. 
t O'Curry, Atlantis, NOB. vii. and viii., page 390. 


sons of Turenn, by Luga of the Long Arms, for killing his father 
Kian ; but this old book does not give the story ot the quest for 
the fine. The full tale, text and literal translation, has been pub- 
lished by O'Curry in the Atlantis. There are several good copies 
in the Royal Irish Academy : one in 23. G. 10, transcribed by 
Patrick Brown of the county Clare, in 1805 ; another in 23. E. 16, 
written out by Michael Oge O'Longan, in 1797; and a third 
(imperfect) in 23. M. 47, copied by Andrew Mac Curtin, in 1734. 

There are references to these three sons ot Turenn, and to the 
manner of their death, in two very old authorities, viz., Cormac's 
" Glossary " (about A.D. 900) ; and a poem by Flann of Monaster- 
boice (who died A.D. 1056), a copy ot which is in the Book oj 
Leinster, written about A.D. 1130. 

In the older references to the sons of Turenn, they are called 
Brian, luohar, lucharba ; but in some comparatively modern copies 
f the tale the names are a little different for instance, Peter 
O'Connell calls them Uar, luchar, and lucharba ; and they vary 
still further in other copies. I have taken advantage of this 
variety to give the names in a more pronounceable form in my 
translation . 

In the original, this tale is introduced by an anecdote of Nuada 
of the Silver Hand and the two great Dedannan leeches, Midac and 
Armedda (see page 92, infra), which has nothing whatever to do 
with the story, and which I have omitted. 


" Leabhar na h-Uidhre," or " The Book of the Dun Cow," from 
which this and the two following tales are taken, is the oldest 
manuscript of miscellaneous Gaelic literature we possess. It was 
transcribed from older books by Maelmuire Mac Ceilechair, who 
died A.D. 1106; and it is now deposited in the Royal Irish 
Academy, Dublin or rather, I should say, a large fragment of it, 
for the book has suffei'ed much mutilation. This venerable book 
may now be said to be in the hands of the public, as it has been 
lately reproduced in lithograph fac-simile, and published by the 
Council of the Royal Irish Academy, at the Government expense. 

The story of " The Overflowing of Lough Neagh " (called in 
the original " The Destruction of Eocho Mac Mairedo ") has been 


published, with text and literal translation, by the late J. (XBeirne 
Crowe, in the Kilkenny Archaeological Journal v volume for 

In this story I have been obliged to make a few transpositions 
in the mere order of the incidents, for the narrative in the original 
is in some places very ill arranged. 

It is now nearly eight hundred years since this story was tran- 
scribed from some old authority into The Book of the Dun Cow ; " 
and it is singular that the tradition of the formation of Lough 
Neagh, by the overflow of an enchanted well which was neglected 
by the woman in charge of it, still maintains a vivid existence 
among the peasantry. (See on this subject the author's " Origin 
and History of Irish Names of Places," Series L 4th edition, page 


This tale (called in the original " Echtra Condla Cain," "The 
Adventures of Connla the Comely ") is taken from " The Book of 
the Dun Cow." It has been published, with text and literal trans- 
lation, by the late J. O'Beirne Crowe, in the Kilkenny Archaeological 
Journal (volume 1874-5, page 128). 

This is one of the many tales that illustrate the ancient and 
widespread superstition that fairies sometimes take away mortals 
to their palaces in the fairy forts and pleasant green hills ; 19 of which 
the last story in this book "Oisiu in Tirnanoge" is another 
example. This superstition prevailed in Ireland and the Scottish 
Highlands as far back as either history or tradition reaches ; it 
flourished in full vigour within my own memory ; and it is scarcely 
quite extinct in Ireland at least at the present day.* In con- 
nection with the antiquity of this superstition, it must be borne in 
mind that the present story was transcribed into " The Book -of the 
Dun Cow " in or about the year 1100, from some older book ; and 
that it relates to the time of Conn the Hundred-fighter, king of 
Ireland, who reigned in the second century of the Christian era. 

* See the ballad and air of " The Fairy King's Courtship," in the 
author's "Ancient Irish Music," page 1. 

PREFACE. xiii 


Of this tale (which is now given to the public for the first ame) 
the oldest copy is in " The Book of the Dun Cow " (about the year 
1100) ; but it is imperfect at both beginning and end a portion 
having been torn away when the book was mutilated at some 
former time. There is a perfect copy in the Yellow Book of Lecan, 
in Trinity College, Dublin, and another in the British Museum 
(MS. Harl. 5280). 

After I had made a rough translation of the greater part of this 
piece, I discovered a good literal translation in manuscript in the 
Royal Irish Academy, made by the late J. O'Beirne Crowe, 
which was of great use to me, as it helped to explain some strange 
terms, and to clear up some obscure passages. 

This voyage would appear from internal evidence to have been 
made in the beginning of the eighth century (O'Cuny says about 
the year 700) ; for I think it likely that Maildun did actually go 
on a voyage, which was afterwards made the framework of the 
story. On my translation of this tale, Lord Tennyson founded his 
poem " The Voyage of Maeldune." 

Of the Imrama or voluntary sea expeditions (to which the 
present story belongs) there are, according to O'Curry (Lect. MS. 
Mat. 289), only four remaining, all very ancient. Of these the 
best known is the " Voyage of St. Brendan," undertaken in the sixth 
century, which was at one time celebrated all over Europe, and 
which has been lately made the theme of a fine poem by Denis 
Florence M'Carthy. 

Another of these Imrama is the " Voyage of the Sons of O'Corra," 
which has been described at some length by Professor O'Curry 
(Lect. MS. Mat. 289). Of this I have a copy which I made from 
the MS. 23. M. 50, Royal Irish Academy (and which I afterwards 
carefully compared with another copy lent me by my friend, Mr. W. 
M. Hennessy). I made a translation of this story, intending to 
print it in the present volume ; but as there is a much older and 
better copy in the ancient " Book of Fermoy," which I had not 
time to consult in detail, I have thought it better to hold back for 
the present the strange adventures of the sons of O'Corra. A 
beautiful poetical translation of the whole tale has been made by 
Mr. T. D. Sullivan of Dublin, and published in his volume of Poems. 



The " Bruighean Caerthainn," or " The Fairy Palace of the 
Quicken Trees," which is now translated for the first time, is one of 
tiie most popular of the Gaelic romances. I had three of the Royal 
Irish Academy MSS. before me when translating it viz., 23. C. 30, 
transcribed in 1733, by the Irish writer and lexicographer, Andrew 
Mac Cnrtin of the county Clare ; 24. B. 15, written in 1841 ; and 
23. L. 24, copied in 1766, by Dermot CPMulqueen of the county 

This is one of a type of stories very common in Gaelic romantic 
literature : One Or more of the heroes are entrapped by some 
enchanter and held under a spell in a castle, or a cave, o^ a 
dungeon ; till, after a series of adventures, they are released by the 
bravery or mother-wit of some of their companions. " The Chase 
of Slieve Fuad " and " The Chase of Slieve Cullinn " are two other 
examples of this class of Gaelic tales. 


This is a humorous story of a trick a very serious practical 
joke played by Avarta, a Dedannan enchanter, on sixteen of the 
Fena, whom he carried off to " The Land of Promise ; " and of the 
adventures of Finn, Dermat O'Dyna, and the others, in their pursuit 
of Avarta (who had taken the shape of the Gilla Backer) to recover 
their companions. It may be regarded as belonging to the same 
class as the last story. 

O'Curry described the opening of this tale in his Lectures 
(MS. Mat 316); and he was the first, so far as I know, to draw 
attention to it. I think it strange that such a story should not 
have been noticed before by writers on Gaelic literature ; for as a 
work of imagination, it seems to me a marvellous and very beauti- 
ful creation. 

The battles fought by the king of Sorca, aided by Finn and his 
Fena, against the King of the World, are described at much length 
m the original ; but I have cut them down to a very short compass ; 
and I have omitted altogether a long episode towards the end, 
which travels away from the main story. 


This tale has never been translated till now. I translated it 
chiefly from the Royal Irish Academy MS., 24. B. 28, a well- 
written manuscript, which was copied out hy Edmond Terry, in 
1728 : but I kept another good copy beside me for comparison, 
viz., that contained in the Royal Irish Academy MS., 23. G. 21, 
written in 1795, by Michael Oge O'Longan of Cork, father of Mr. 
Joseph O'Longan, now the Irish scribe in the Royal Irish Academy, 
and the transcriber in fac-simile of " Leabhar na h-Uidhre," 
" Leabhar Breac," and " Leabhar Laighneach." 


This tale is one of those mentioned in the list contained in the 
Book of Leinster, which was written about A.D. 1130 (see note, 
page iv.) ; but though this proves the tale to be an ancient one, 
I have never come across a copy older than the last century. 

" The Pursuit of Dermat and Grania " has been published, with 
text and a very racy idiomatic literal translation, by Mr. Standish 
Hayes O'Grady, in the Transactions of the Ossianic Society for 
1855, from a comparison of two manuscripts, one of 1780 and the 
other of 1842. In addition to Mr. O'Grady's published text, I made 
use of another .good copy (MS. Royal Irish Academy, 23. G. 21) 
written in 1795, by Michael Oge O'Longan, already spoken of. 

I cannot help believing that this fine story originally ended with 
the death of Dermat ; though in all the current versions (including 
Mr. O'Grady's printed text) there is an additional part recounting 
the further proceedings of Grania and her sons, after the death of 
the hero. But this part is in every respect inferior to the rest in 
language, in feeling, and in play of imagination. It seems to me 
Very clear that it was patched on to the original story by some 
unskilful hand ; and I have accordingly omitted it, and ended tha 
story with the death of Dermat. I have also omitted two short 
episodes that of the cnumh or reptile of Corca Divna, as a mere 
excrescence ; and Finn's expedition to Scotland for aid against 
Dermat. And, for the sake of clearness, I have slightly changed 
the place of that part of the tale which recounts the origin 61 
the Fairy Quicken Tree of Dooros. There are one or two other 
trifling but very necessary modifications, which need not be 
mentioned here. 



In the original Gaelic these are three poetical tales. All three 
have been printed, with Gaelic text and literal translation, in th 
Transactions of the Ossianio Society : the two first by the late 
John O'Daly, and "Oisin in Tirnanoge" by Professor O'Looney. 
There are many good copies of these tales in the manuscripts of 
the Royal Irish Academy ; though of not one of them have I seen 
a copy older than the last century. 

" The Chase of Slieve Cullinn " (commonly known as " The 
Poem of the Chase ") has been translated into English verse by 
Miss Brooke ; and there is another metrical translation in the Irish 
Penny Journal (page 93). And of '* Oisin in Tirnanoge," Mr. T. D- 
Sullivan has given a graceful poetical rendering in bis volume of 
Poems, already mentioned. 


IN this edition there is an additional tale, ' The 
Fate of the Sons of Usna," a notice of which -all 
be found at page x, above. 






1. Bove Derg chosen King of the Dedannans, . , 1 

II. The Children of Lir, 4 

III The Four Children of Lir are turned into Four White 

Swans by their Stepmother, .... 6 

IV. The Four White Swans on Lake Darvra, ... 10 

V. The Four White Swans on the Sea of Moyle, . . 18 

VI. Tnt Four White Swans on the Western Sea, . . 26 

VII. The Children of Lir regain their Human Shape and 

die, 32 


I. The Lochlanns invade Erin. . . 37 

II. The Murder of Kian, 42 

III. Defeat and Flight of the Lochlanns, ... 47 
IV. The Eric-Fine on the Sons of Turenn for the Slaying 

of Kian, .51 

V. The Sons of Turenn obtain Mannanan's Canoe, the 

Wave- Sweeper 60 

VI. The Apples of the Garden of Hisberna, ... 63 

VII. The Gifted Skin of the Pig, 67 

VIII. The Blazing Spear of the King of Persia, . . .71 

IX. The Chariot and Steeds of the King of Sigar, . . 74 


X. The Seven Pigs of the King of the Golden Pillars, . 78 
XI. The Hound-Whelp of the King of Iroda, ... 81 
XII. Return of the Sons of Turenn, with part of the Eric- 
Fine, 84 

XIII. The Cooking-Spit of the Women of Fincara, . . 87 

XIV. The Three Shouts on Midkena's Hill, . . 89 
XV. Return and Death of the Sons of Turenn, . . .91 





I. Maildun's Childhood and Youth. He begins Ida 
Voyage in Quest of the Plunderers who slew 

his Father . 112 

II. The First, Island. Tidings of the Plunderers, . .II 7 

III. The Island of the Monstrous Ants 119 

IV. The Terraced Isle of Birds. 120 

V. A Monster, ..'.... .121 

VI. The Demon Horse- Race, 122 

VII. The Palace rf Solitude 124 

VIII. The Island of the Wonderful Apple Tree. . . . 125 

IX. The Island of Bloodthirsty Quadrupeds, , . .126 

X. An Extraordinary Monster 127 

XI. The Isle of Red-Hot Animals, 129 

XII. The Palace of the Little Cat 131 

XIII. An Island that dyed Black and White, " . . .133 

XIV. The Island of the Burning River . . . .135 

XV. The Miller of Hell . .136 

XVI. The Isle of Weeping, 137 

XVII. The Isle of the Four Precious Walls, . . .139 

XVIII. The Palace of the Crystal Bridge, . . . .139 

XIX. The Isle of Speaking Birds, 143 

XX. The Aged Hermit and the Human Souls, . . .143 

XXI. The Island of the Big Blacksmiths. . . . .145 

XXII. The Crystal Sea, 147 

XXIII. A Lovely Country beneath the Waves, . . .147 



XXIV. An Island guarded by a Wall of Water, . . .148 

XXV. A Water- Arch in the Air, 149 

XXVI. The Silver Pillar of the Sea, 150 

XXVII. An Island standing on One Pillar, . . . .151 

XXVIII. The Island Queen detains them with her Magic 

Thread-Clew, 152 

XXIX. The Isle of Intoxicating Wine-Fruits, . . .156 

XXX. The Isle of the Mystic Lake, 157 

XXXI. The Isle of Laughing 163 

XXXII. The Isle of the Blest, 164 

XXXIII. The Hermit of the Sea-Rock, 164 

XXXIV. Signs of Home, 174 

XXXV. Maildun meets his Enemy, and arrives Home, . .175 


I. Colga, King of Lochlann, invades Erin, and is slain, . 177 
II. Midac, the Son of Colga, meditates Revenge, . . 181 

III. Finn is entrapped by Midac, and held by Enchant- 

ment in the Palace of the Quicken Trees, .' .189 

IV. Innsa, Finn's Foster Son, defends the Ford leading 

to the Palace of the Quicken Trees, . . .196 
V. Fiona, the Son of Finn, defends the Ford, . . 203 
VI. Dermat O'Dyna slays the Three Kings of the Island 
of the Torrent, breaks the Spell with their Blood, 

and frees Finn, 213 

YII. The Fight at the Ford with the Foreign Army, . . 219 


I. Arrival of the Gilla Dacker and his Horse, . . 223 

II. Conan and Fifteen of the Fena are carried off by the 

Gilla Backer's Horse, 235 

III. Pursuit, 239 

IV. Dermat O'Dyna, in Quest of the Gilla Dacker, en- 
counters the Wizard-Champion at the Well, . 245 

V. Dermat O'Dyna in Tir-fa-tonn, 253 

VI. Finn, in Quest of Dermat, fights many Battles, . . 259 

VII. Finn and Dermat meet, 265 

VIII. Conan and his Companions found and rescued, . . 267 




I. Finn, the Son of Cumal, seeks the Princess Grania to 

Wife r 274 

II. Dermat O'Dyna secretly espouses the Princess 

Grania, 277 

III. Flight and Pursuit, 285 

IV. The Fastness of the Seven Narrow Doors, . .289 
V. The Three Sea- Champions and their Three Venomous 

Hounds on the Track of Dermat and Grania. . 296 
VI. "What Befell the Three Sea- Champions and their 

Three Venomous Hounds, 305 

VII. Sharvan, the Surly Giant, and the Fairy Quicken 

Tree of Dooros, 313 

VIII. The Attack of the Witch-Hag, . . . - 330 

IX. Peace and Rest at Last, 332 

X. The Death of Dermat, 334 





NOTES, , . . 455 






Silent, O Moyle, be the roar of thy water ; 

Break not, ye breezes, your chain of repose ; 
While murmuring mournfully, Lir's lonely daughter 

Tells to the night-star her tale of woes. 




AFTER the battle of Tailltenn,* the Dedannans 1 f of 
the five provinces of Erin assembled in one place of 
meeting, to consider on their state, and to choose 
a king. For their chiefs said it was better for them 
to have one king over all, than to be divided, as 
they were, serving sundry lords and princes. 

Now of those who expected the sovereignty for 
themselves, the following chiefs were the noblest, 
namely : Bove Derg,$ son of the Dagda ; his brother 

* Now Teltown, on the river Blackwater, between Kells and 
Navan, in Meath. (See note 1 at the end, for this battle.) 

t The numbers refer to the notes at the end of the book. 

J At the end of the book will be found an alphabetical list of all 
the names of persons and places mentioned through the volume, with 
their Gaelic forms, and, in many cases, their meanings. 


Angus, of Bruga on the Boyne, who, however, had no 
earnest wish to become king, preferring to remain as 
he was; Ilbrec of Assaroe; Lir of Shee Finnaha ; and 
Midir the Haughty of Bri-Leth. 1 

Then the chief people went into council, all except 
the five above named ; and the decision they came to 
was to elect Bove Derg, son of the Dagda, king over 
the whole of the Dedannan race. When the election 
was made known, none of those who were disappointed 
took the matter to heart except Lir of Shee Finnaha 
alone. And when Lir found that the chiefs had 
chosen Bove Derg, he was greatly offended, and 
straightway left the assembly in anger, without 
taking leave of any one, and without showing any 
mark of respect or obedience to the new king. 

When the chiefs heard this, they were wroth; and 
they said they would follow him to Shee Finnaha,* 
and slay him with spear and sword, and burn his 
house, because he did not yield obedience to the king 
they had elected in lawful council. 

But Bove Derg would not permit them to do so. 
" This man," he said, " will defend his territory, and 
many will be slain; and I am none the less your king, 
although he has not submitted to me." 

Matters remained so for a long time. But at last 
a great misfortune happened to Lir, for his wife died 
after an ilhaess of three days. This weighed heavily 

* Shee Finnaha, Lir's residence, is thought to have been situated 
near the boundary of Armagh and Monaghan, not far from Newtown 


on him, and his heart was weary with sorrow after 
her. Her death, moreover, was a great event at that 
time, and was much spoken of throughout Erin. 

When the tidings reached the mansion of Bove 
Derg, where the chief men of the Dedannans were 
then assembled, the king said 

"As Lir's wife is now dead, my friendship would 
be of service to him, if he were willing to accept it. 
For I have in my house three maidens, the most 
beautiful and the best instructed in all Erin, namely, 
Eve, Eva, and Alva, my own foster children, and 
daughters of Allil of Ara."* 

The Dedannans agreed to this, and said that their 
king had spoken wisely and truly. 

Messengers were accordingly sent to Lir, and they 
were told to say to him 

" If thou art willing to submit to the king, he will 
give thee for a wife one of his three foster children ; 
and thou shalt have his friendship for ever." 

Tt was pleasing to Lir to make this alliance ; and 
accordingly he set out next day from Shee Finnaha 
with a company of fifty chariots ; and they never 
halted or turned aside till they reached the palace of 
Bove Derg, on the shore of the Great Lake.f Their 
arrival gave much joy and happiness to the king and 
his household ; for although Lir did not submit at first 
to Bove Derg, he was a good man, and was greatly 

* Ara, the islands of Aran, in Galway Bay. 

t The Great Lake, i.e. Lough Derg, on the Shannon, above 


beloved by the king himself and by all his subjects. 
So Lir and his followers got a kindly welcome . 
and they were supplied with everything necessary, 
and were well attended to that night. 

Next day, the three daughters of Allil of Ara sat 
on the same couch with the queen their foster mother; 
and the king said to Lir 

" Take thy choice of the three maidens, and which- 
ever thou choosest, she shall be thy wife." 

" They are all beautiful," said Lir, " and I cannot 
tell which of them is best ; but I will take the eldest, 
for she must be the noblest of the three." 

Then the king said, " Eve is the eldest, and she 
shall be given to thee if it be thy wish." 

So Lir chose Eve for his wife, and they were 
wedded that day. 

Lir remained a fortnight in the king's palace, and 
then departed with his wife to his own house, Shee 
Finnaha, where he celebrated his marriage by a great 
royal wedding feast. 



IN course of time, Lir's wife bore him two children 
at a birth, a daughter and a son, whose names were 
Finola and Aed. A second time she brought forth 
twins, two sons, who were named Ficra and Conn : 


and she died in giving them birth. This was a cause 
of great anguish to Lir ; and he would almost have 
died of grief, only that his mind was turned from his 
sorrow by his great love for his four little children. 

When the news of Eve's death reached the 
mansion of Bove Derg, the king was in deep grief, 
and the people of his household raised three great 
cries of lamentation for her. And when their mourn- 
ing was ended, the king said 

"We grieve for our foster child, both on her own 
account, and for the sake of the good man to whom 
we gave her; for we are thankful for his alliance 
and his friendship. But our acquaintance shall not 
be ended, and our alliance shall not be broken ; for 
I will give him her sister to wife, my second foster 
child, Eva." 

Messengers were sent to Lir to Shee Finnaha, to tell 
him of this ; and he consented. So after some time he 
came to the king's house to espouse her, .and they 
were united ; and he brought her home with him to 
his own house. 

The four children grew up under Eva's care. She 
nursed them with great tenderness, and her love for 
them increased every day. They slept near their 
father; and he would often rise from his own bed at 
the dawn of morning, and go to their beds, to talk 
with them and to fondle them. 

The king, Bove Derg, loved them almost as well as 
did their father. He went many times every year to 
Shee Finnaha to see them ; and he used to bring them 


often to his palace, where he kept them as long as he 
could on each occasion, and he always felt sad when 
he sent them home. 

At this time, too, the Dedannans used to celebrate 
the Feast of Age 2 at the houses of their chiefs by 
turns ; and whenever it happened that the festival 
was held at Shee Finnaha, these children were the 
delight and joy of the Dedannans. For nowhere 
could four lovelier children be found; so that those 
who saw them were always delighted with their beauty 
and their gentleness, and could not help loving them 
with their whole heart. 



Now when Eva saw that the children of Lir 
received such attention and affection from their 
father, and from all others that came to his house, she 
fancied she was neglected on their account ; and a 
poisonous dart of jealousy entered her heart, which 
turned her love to hatred; and she began to have 
feelings of bitter enmity for her sister's children. 

Her jealousy so preyed on her that she feigned 
illness, and lay in bed for nearly a year, filled with 
gall and brooding mischief; and at the end of that 
time she committed a foul and cruel deed of treachery 
on the children of Lir. 


One day she ordered her horses to be yoked to 
her chariot, and she set out for the palace of Bove 
Derg, bringing the four children with her. 

Finola did not wish to go, for it was revealed to 
her darkly in a dream that Eva was bent on some 
dreadful deed of fratricide ;* and she knew well that 
her stepmother intended to kill her and her brothers 
that day, or in some other way to bring ruin on them. 
But she was not able to avoid the fate that awaited 

When they had gone some distance from Shee 
Finnaha on their way to the palace, Eva tried to 
persuade her attendants to kill the children. " Kill 
them, and you shall be rewarded with all the worldly 
wealth you may desire; for their father loves me no 
longer, and has neglected and forsaken me on account 
of his great love for these children." 

But they heard her with horror, and refused, 
saying, " We will not kill them. Fearful is the deed 
thou hast contemplated, O Eva ; and evil will surely 
befall thee for having even thought of killing them." 

Then she took the sword to slay them herself ; but 
her woman's weakness prevented her, and she was not 
able to strike them. 

So they set out once more, and fared on till they 
came to the shore of Lake Darvra,f where they 
alighted, and the horses were unyoked. 

* The word " fratricide " is the nearest English equivalent to the 
original word, fionghal, which means the murder of a relative, 
t Lake Darvra, now Lough Derravaragh, in Westmeath. 


She led the children to the edge of the lake, and 
told them to go to bathe ; and as soon as they had 
got into the clear water, she struck them one by one 
with a druidical 8 fairy wand, and turned them into 
four beautiful snow-white swans. And she addressed 
them in these words 

Out to your home, ye swans, on Darvra's wave ; 

With clamorous birds begin your life of gloom : 
Your friends shall weep your fate, but none can save ; 

For I've pronounced the dreadful words of doom. 

After this, the four children of Lir turned their 
faces to their stepmother ; and Finola spoke 

" Evil is the deed thou hast done, Eva ; thy 
friendship to us has been a friendship of treachery ; 
and thou hast ruined us without cause. But the deed 
will be avenged; for the power of thy witchcraft is 
not greater than the druidical power of our friends to 
punish thee ; and the doom that awaits thee shall be 
worse than ours." 

Onr stepmother loved us long ago; 

Our stepmother now has wrought us woe : 

With magical wand and fearful words, 

She changed UB to beautiful snow-white birds ; 

And we live on the waters for evermore, 

By tempests driven from shore to shore. 

Finola again spoke and said, " Tell us now how 
long we shall be in the shape of swans, so that we 
may know when our miseries shall come to an end." 

"It would be better for you 'if you had not put 
that question," said Eva; "but I shall declare the 
truth to you, as you have asked me. Three hundred 


years on smooth Lake Darvra ; three hundred years on 
the Sea of Moyle, between Erin and Alban;* three 
hundred years at Irros Domnann and atlnis Gloraf on 
the Western Sea. Until the union of Largnen, the 
prince from the north, with Decca, the princess from 
the south ; until the Taillkenn } shall come to Erin, 
bringing the light of a pure faith ; and until ye hear 
the voice of the Christian bell. And neither by your 
own power, nor by mine, nor by the power of your 
friends, can ye be freed till the time comes." 

Then Eva repented what she had done ; and she 
said, "Since I cannot afford you any other relief, 
I will allow you to keep your own Gaelic speech ; and 
ye shall be able to sing sweet, plaintive, fairy music, 
which shall excel all the music of the world, and 
which shall lull to sleep all that listen to it. More- 
over, ye shall retain your human reason ; and ye shall 
not be in grief on account of being in the shape of 

And she chanted this lay 

Depart from me, ye graceful swans ; 

The waters are now your home : 
Your palace shall be the pearly cave, 
Your couch the crest of the crystal wave, 

And your mantle the milk-white foam ! 

* The sea between Erin and Alban (Ireland and Scotland) was 
anciently called the Sea of Moyle, from the Moyle, or Mull, of 

t Irros Domnann ; Erris, in the county Mayo. Inis Glora ; 
a small island about five miles west from Belmullet, in the same 
county, still known by the same name. 

J Taillkenn, a name given by the druids to St. Patrick. 


Depart from me, ye enow-white swans 

With your music and Gaelic speech : 
The crystal Darvra, the wintry Moyle, 
The billowy margin of Glora's isle ; 

Three hundred years on each ! 

Victorious Lir, your hapless sire, 

His lov'd ones in vain shall call ; 
His weary heart is a husk of gore, 
His home is joyless for evermore, 

And his anger on me shall fall ! 

Through circling ages of gloom and fear 

"If our anguish no tongue can tell ; 
Till Faith shall shed her heavenly rays, 
Till ye hear the Taillkenn's anthem of praise, 

And the voice of the Christian bell ! 

Then ordering her steeds to be yoked to her chariot 
she departed westwards, leaving the four white swans 
swimming on the lake. 

Our father shall watch and weep in vain ; 
He never shall see us return again. 
Four pretty children, happy at home ; 
Four white swans on the feathery foam ; 
And we live on the waters for evermore, 
By tempests driven from shore to shore. 



WHEN Eva arrived at the house of Bove Derg, the 
chiefs bade her welcome ; and the king asked her why 
she had not brought the Children of Lir to him. 


" Because," she replied, " Lir no longer loves thee ; 
and he does not wish to intrust his children to thee, 
lest thou shouldst harm them." 

The king was greatly astonished and troubled at 
this, and he said, "How can that be? For I love 
those children better than I love my own." 

But he thought in his own mind that Eva had 
played some treachery on them. And he sent mes- 
sengers with all speed northwards to Shee Finnaha, 
k> inquire for the children, and to ask that they might 
be sent to him. 

When the messengers had told their errand, Lir 
was startled; and he asked, "Have the children not 
reached the palace with Eva ? " 

They answered, " Eva arrived alone, and she told 
the king that you refused to let the children come." 

A sad and sorrowful heart had Lir when he heard 
this ; and he now felt sure that Eva had destroyed his 
four lovely children. So, early next morning, his 
chariot was yoked for him, and he set out with 
his attendants for the king's palace ; and they travelled 
with all speed till they arrived at the shore of Lake 

The children of Lir saw the cavalcade approach- 
ing ; and Finola spoke these words 

I see a mystic warrior band 

From yonder brow approach the strand ; 

I see them winding down the vale, 

Their bending chariots slow advancing ; 
I see their shields and gilded mail, 

Their spears and helmets brightly glancing. 


Ah ! well I know that proud array ; 
I know too well their thoughts to-day : 
The Dannan host and royal Lir ; 

Four rosy children they are seeking : 
Too soon, alas ! they find us here, 

Four snowy swans like children speaking! 

Come, brothers dear, approach the coast, 
To welcome Lir's mysterious host. 
Oh, woful welcome ! woful day, 

That never brings a bright to-morrow! 
Unhappy father, doomed for aye 

To mourn our fate in hopeless sorrow ! 

When Lir came to the shore, he heard the birds 
speaking, and, wondering greatly, he asked them how 
it came to pass that they had human voices. 

" Know, Lir," said Finola, " that we are thy four 
children, who have been changed into swans and 
ruined by the witchcraft of our stepmother, our own 
mother's sister, Eva, through her baleful jealousy." 

When Lir and his people heard this, they uttered 
three long mournful cries of grief and lamentation. 

After a time, their father asked them, " Is it possible 
to restore you to your own shapes ? " 

" It is not possible," replied Finola ; " no man has 
the power to release us until Largnen from the north 
and Decca from the south are united. Three hundred 
years we shall be on Lake Darvra; three hundred 
years on the sea-stream of Moyle; three hundred 
years on the Sea of Glora in the west. And we shall 
not regain our human shape till the Taillkenn come 
with his pure faith into Erin, and until we hear the 
voice of the Christian bell" 


And again the people raised three great cries of 

" As you have your speech and your reason," said 
Lir, " come now to land, and ye shall live at home, 
conversing with me and my people." 

" We are not permitted to leave the waters of the 
lake, and we cannot live with our people any more. 
But the wicked Eva has allowed us to retain our 
human reason, and our own Gaelic speech; and we have 
also the power to chant plaintive, fairy music, so sweet 
that those who listen to us would never desire any 
other happiness. Remain with us to-night, and we 
will chant our music for you." 

Lir and his people remained on the shore of the 
lake; and the swans sang their slow, fairy music, 
which was so sweet and sad, that the people, as they 
listened, fell into a calm, gentle sleep. 

At the glimmer of dawn next morning, Lir arose, 
and he bade farewell to his children for a while, to 
seek out Eva. 

The time has come for me to part : 

No more, alas ! my children dear, 
Your rosy smiles shall glad my heart, 

Or light the gloomy home of Lir. 

Dark was the day when first I brought 

This Eva in my home to dwell ! 
Hard was the woman's heart that wrought 

This cruel and malignant spell ! 

I lay me down to rest in vain ; 

Foi . through the livelong, sleepless night, 
My little lov*d ones, pictured plain, 

Stand ever there before my sight. 


Finola, once my pride and joy ; 

Dark Aed, adventurous and bold ; 
Bright Ficra, gentle, playful boy ; 

And little Conn, with curls of gold ; 

Struck down on Darvra's reedy shore, 

By wicked Eva's magic power : 
Oh, children, children, never more 

My heart shall know one peaceful hour! 

Lir then departed, and travelled south-west till he 
arrived at the king's palace, where he was welcomed ; 
and Bove Derg began to reproach him, in presence of 
Eva, for not bringing the children. 

" Alas ! " said Lir ; " it was not by me that the 
children were prevented from coming. But Eva, 
your own foster child, the sister of their mother, has 
played treachery on them ; and has changed them by 
her sorcery into four white swans on Lake Darvra." 

The king was confounded and grieved at this 
news ; and when he looked at Eva, he knew by her 
countenance that what Lir had told him was true ; 
and he began to upbraid her in a fierce and angry 

" The wicked deed thou hast committed," said he, 
" will be worse for thee than for the children of Lir ; 
for their suffering shall come to an end, and they shall 
be happy at last." 

Again 'he spoke to her more fiercely than before ; 
and he asked her what shape of all others, on the 
earth, or above the earth, or beneath the earth, she 
most abhorred, and into which she most dreaded to be 


And she, being forced to answer truly, said, "A 

demon of the air."* 

" That is the form you shall take," said Bove Derg ; 
and as he spoke he struck her with a druidical magic 
wand, and turned her into a demon of the air. 
She opened her wings, and flew with a scream up- 
wards and away through the clouds ; and she is still 
a demon of the air, and she shall be a demon of the 
air till the end of time. 

Then Bove Derg and the Dedannans assembled on 
the shore of the lake, and encamped there ; for they 
wished to remain with the birds, and to listen to their 
music. The Milesian people t came and formed an 
encampment there in like manner ; for historians say 
that no music that was ever heard in Erin could be 
compared with the singing of these swans. 

And so the swans passed their time. During the 
day they conversed with the men of Erin, both 
Dedannans and Milesians, and discoursed lovingly 
with their friends and fellow nurselings ; and at night 
they chanted their slow, sweet, fairy music, the most 
delightful that was ever heard by men; so that all 
who listened to it, even those who were in grief, or 
sickness, or pain, forgot their sorrows and their suffer- 
ings, and fell into a gentle, sweet sleep, from which 
they awoke bright and happy. 

So they continued, the Dedannans and the Mile- 

* A demon of the air was held in great abhorrence by the ancient 

t The Milesian people ; tne colony who conquered and succeeded 
the Dedannans. (See note 1 at end.) 


sians, in their encampments, and the swans on the 
lake, for three hundred years.* And at the end of that 
time, Finola said to her brothers 

" Do you know, my dear brothers, that we have 
come to the end of our time here ; and that we have 
only this one night to spend on Lake Darvra ? " 

When the three sons of Lir heard this, they were 
in great distress and sorrow ; for they were almost as 
happy on Lake Darvra, surrounded by their friends, 
and conversing with them day by day, as if they had 
been in their father's house in their own natural 
shapes ; whereas they should now live on the gloomy 
and tempestuous Sea of Moyle, far away from all 
human society. 

Early next morning, they came to the margin of 
the lake, to speak to their Father and their friends 
for the last time, and to bid them farewell; and 
Finola chanted this lay 

Farewell, farewell, our father dear ! 

The last sad hour has come : 
Farewell, Bove Derg ! farewell to all, 

Till the dreadful day of doom !t 
We go from friends and scenes beloved, 
To a home f grief and pain ; 
And that day of woe 
Shall come and go, 
Before we meet again ! 

* The Dedannans were regarded as gods, and were immortal or semi- 
immortal. (See note 1 at the end.) 

T It must be remembered that the children of Lir had some obscure 
foreknowledge of the coming of Christianity. 


Wo live for ages on stormy Moyle, 

In loneliness and fear ; 
The kindly words of loving friendg 

We never more shall hear. 
Four joyous children long ago ; 
Four snow-white swans to-day ; 
And on Moyle's wild sea 
Our robe shall be 
The cold and briny spray. 


Far down on the misty stream of time, 

When three hundred years are o'er, 
Three hundred more in storm and cold, 

By Glora's desolate shore ; 
Till Decca fair is Largneu's spouse ; 
Till north and south unite ; 
Till the hymns are sung, 
And the bells are rung, 
At the dawn of the pure faith's light 

Arise, my brothers, from Darvra's wave, 

On the wings of the southern wind ; 
We leave our father and friends to-day 

In measureless grief behind. 
Ah ! sad the parting, and sad our flight 
To Moyle's tempestuous main ; 
For the day of woe 
Shall come and go, 
Before we meet again ! 

The four swans then spread their wings, and rose 
from the surface of the water in sight of all their 
friends, till they reached a great height in the air, 
then resting, and looking downwards for a moment 



they flew straight to the north, till they alighted on 
the Sea of Moyle between Erin and A&an. 

The men of Erin were grieved at their departure, 
and they made a law, and proclaimed it throughout the 
land, that no one should kill a swan in Erin from that 
time forth. 



As to the children of Lir, miserable was their abode 
and evil their plight on the Sea of Moyle. Their 
hearts were wrung with sorrow for their father and 
their friends; and when they looked towards the 
steep, rocky, far-stretching coasts, and saw the great, 
dark wild sea around them, they were overwhelmed 
with fear and despair. They began also to suffer 
from cold and hunger, so that all the hardships they 
had endured on Lake Darvra appeared as nothing 
compared with their suffering on the sea-current of 

And so they lived, till one night a great tempest 
fell upon the sea. Finola, when she saw the fiky filled 
with black, threatening clouds, thus addressed her 

" Beloved brothers, we have made a bad prepara- 
tion for this night ; for it is certain that the coming 


storm will separate us ; and now let us appoint a 
place of meeting, or it may happen that we shall never 
see each other again." 

And they answered, " Dear sister, you speak truly 
and wisely ; and let us fix on Carricknarone, for that 
is a rock that we are all very well acquainted with." 

And they appointed Carricknarone as their place 
of meeting. 

Midnight came, and with it came the beginning of 
the storm. A wild, rough wind swept over the dark 
sea, the lightnings flashed, and the great waves rose,, 
and increased their violence and their thunder. 

The swans were soon scattered over the waters, SG 
that not one of them knew in what direction the others 
had been driven. During all that night they were 
tossed about by the roaring winds and waves, and it 
was with much difficulty they preserved their lives. 

Towards morning the storm abated, and the sea 
became again calm and smooth; and Finola swam 
to Carricknarone. But she found none of her brothers 
there, neither could she see any trace of them when 
she looked all round from the summit of the rock over 
the wide face of the sea. 

Then she became terrified, for she thought she 
should never see them again ; and she began to lament 
them plaintively in these words 

The heart-breaking anguish and woe of this life 

I am able no longer to bear : 
My wings are benumbed with this pitiless frost ; 
My three little brothers are scattered and lost ; 

And I am left here to ^spair. 


My three little brothers I never shall see 

Till the dead shall arise from the tomb : 
How I sheltered them oft with my wings and my breast, 
And I soothed their sorrows and lulled them to rest, 
As the night fell around us in gloom ! 

Ah, where are my brothers, and why have I lived, 

This last worst affliction to know ? 
What now is there left but a life of despair ? 
For alas ! I am able no longer to bear 

This heart-breaking anguish and woe.* 

Soon after this she looked again over the sea, and 
she saw Conn coming towards the rock, with his head 
drooping, and his feathers all drenched with the salt 
spray ; and she welcomed him with joyful heart. 

Not long after, Ficra appeared, but he was so faint 
with wet and cold and hardship, that he was scarce- 
able to reach the place where Finola and Conn were 
standing ; and when they spoke to him he could not 
speak one word in return. So Finola placed the two 
under her wings, and she said 

" If Aed were here now, all would be happy with 

In a little time they saw Aed coming towards 
fchem, with head erect and feathers all dry and radiant 
and Finola gave him a joyful welcome. She then 
placed him under the feathers of her breast, while 
Conn and Ficra remained under her wings; and she 
said to them 

" My dear brothers, though ye may think this 

* Many of these old poems begin and end with the same line 
or couplet. 


night very bad, we shall have many like it from this 
time forth." 

So they continued for a long time on the Sea of 
Moyle, suffering hardships of every kind, till one 
winter night came upon them, of great wind and of 
snow and frost so severe, that nothing they ever before 
suffered could be compared to the misery of that night. 
And Finola uttered these words 

Our life is a life of woe ; 

No shelter or rest we find : 
How bitterly drives the snow ; 

How cold is this wintry wind! 

From the icy spray of the sea, 

From the wind of the bleak north east, 

I shelter my brothers three, 
Under my wings and breast. 

Our stepmother sent us here, 

And misery well we know :- 
In cold and hunger and fear ; 

Our life is a life of woe ! 

Another year passed away on the Sea of Moyle ; 
and one night in January, a dreadful frost came down 
on the earth and sea, so that the waters were frozen 
into a solid floor of ice all round them. The swans 
remained on Carricknarone all night, and their feet 
and their wings were frozen to the icy surface, so 
that they had to strive hard to move from their 
places in the morning ; and they left the skin of their 
feet, the quills of their wings, and the feathers of 
their breasts clinging to the rock. 

" Sad is our condition this night, my beloved 


brothers," said Finola, " for we are forbidden to leave 
the Sea of Moyle; and yet we cannot bear the salt 
water, for when it enters our wounds, I fear we shall 
die of pain." 

And she spoke this lay 

Oar fate is mournful here to-day ; 

Our bodies bare and chill, 
Drenched by the bitter, briny spray, 

And torn on this rocky hill ! 

Cruel our stepmother's jealous heart 

That banished us from home ; 
Transformed to swans by magic art, 

To swim the ocean foam. 

This bleak and snowy winter day, 

Our bath is the ocean wide ; 
In thirsty summer's burning ray, 

Our drink the briny tide. 

And here 'mid rugged rocks we dwell, 

In this tempestuous bay ; 
Four children bound by magic spell j 

Our fate is sad to-day 1 

They were, however, forced to swim out on the 
stream of Moyle, all wounded and torn as they were ; 
for though the brine was sharp and bitter, they were 
not able to avoid it They stayed as near the coast 
as they could, till after a long time the feathers of 
their breasts and wings grew again, and their wounds 
were healed. 

After this they lived on for a great number of 
years, sometimes visiting the shores of Erin, and some- 
times the headlands of Alban. But they always 


returned to the sea-stream of Moyle, for it was destined 
to be their home till the end of three hundred years. 

One day they came to the mouth of the Bann, 
on the north coast of Erin, and looking inland, they 
saw a stately troop of horsemen approaching directly 
from the south-west. They were mounted on white 
steeds, and clad in bright-coloured garments, and as 
they wound towards the shore their arms glittered 
in the sun. 

" Do ye know yonder cavalcade ? " said Finola to 
her brothers. 

" We know them not," they replied ; " but it is 
likely they are a party of the Milesians, or perchance 
a troop of our own people, the Dedannans." 

They swam towards the shore, to find out who 
the strangers were; and the cavalcade on their part, 
when they saw the swans, knew them at once, and 
moved towards them till they were within speaking 

Now these were a party of the Dedannans ; and 
the chiefs who commanded them were tLe two sons of 
Bove Derg, the Dedannan king, namely, Aed the Keen- 
witted, and Fergus the Chess-player, with a third part 
of the Fairy Host.* They had been for a long time 
searching for the children of Lir along the northern 
shores of Erin, and now that they had found them, 
they were joyful ; and they and the swans greeted 
each other with tender expressions of friendship and 

* Fairy host ; i.e. the Dedannans. (See note 1 at the end of the 


love. The children of Lir inquired after the De- 
dannans, and particularly after their father Lir, and 
Bove Derg, and all the rest of their friends and 

" They are all well," replied the chiefs ; " and they 
and the Dedannans in general are now gathered 
together in the house of your father, at Shee Finnaha, 
celebrating the Feast of Age, 2 pleasantly and agreeably. 
Their happiness would indeed be complete, only that 
you are not with them, and that they know not where 
you have been since you left Lake Darvra." 

" Miserable has been our life since that day," said 
Finola ; " and no tongue can tell the suffering and 
sorrow we have endured on the Sea of Moyle." 

And she chanted these words 

Ah, happy is Lir's bright home to-day, 
With mead and music and poet's lay : 
But gloomy and cold his children's home, 
For ever tossed on the briny foam. 

Our wreathed feathers are thin and light 

When the wind blows keen through the wintry night : 

Yet oft we were robed, long, long ago, 

In purple mantles and furs of snow. 

On Movie's bleak current our food and wine 
Are sandy sea-weed and bitter brine : " 
Yet oft we feasted in days of old, 
And hazel-mead drank from cups of gold. 

Onr beds are rocks in the dripping caves ; 
Our lullaby song the roar of the waves : 
But soft rich conches once we pressed, 
And harpers lulled us each night to rest. 


Lonely we swim on the billowy main, 
Through frost and snow, through storm and rain : 
Alas for the days when round us moved 
The chiefs and princes and friends we loved ! 

My little twin brothers beneath my wings 
Lie close when the north wind bitterly stings, 
And Aed close nestles before my breast ; 
Thus side by side through the night we rest. 

Our father's fond kisses, Bove Derg's embrace, 
The light of Mannanan's ' godlike face, 
The love of Angus ' all, all are o'er; 
And we live on the billows for evermore ! 

After this they bade each other farewell, for it was 
not permitted to the children of Lir to remain away 
from the stream of Moyle. As soon as they had 
parted, the Fairy Cavalcade returned to Shee Finnaha, 
where they related to the Dedannan chiefs all that 
had passed, and described the condition of the children 
of Lir. And the chiefs answered 

" It is not in our power to help them ; but we are 
glad that they are living ; and we know that in the 
end the enchantment will be broken, and that they 
will be freed from their sufferings." 

As to the children of Lir, they returned to their 
home on the Sea of Moyle, and there they remained 
till they had fulfilled their term of years. 




AND when their three hundred years were ended, 
Finola said to her brothers 

" It is time for us to leave this place, for our period 
here has come to an end." 

The hour has come ; the hour has come ; 

Three hundred years hare passed : 
We leave this bleak and gloomy home, 

And we fly to the west at last ! 

We leave for ever the stream of Moyle ; 

On the clear, cold wind we go ; 
Three hundred years round Glora's isle, 

Where wintry tempests blow ! 

No sheltered home, no place of rest, 

From the tempest's angry blast : 
Fly, brothers, fly, to the distant west, 

For the hour has come at last ! 

So the swans left the Sea of Moyle, and flew west- 
ward, till they reached Irros Domnann and the sea 
round the isle of Glora. There they remained for 
a long time, suffering much from storm and cold, and 
in nothing better off than they were on the Sea of 

It chanced that a young man named Ebric, of 
good family, the owner of a tract of land lying along 
the shore, observed the birds and heard their singing. 


He took great delight in listening to their plaintive 
music, and he walked down to the shore almost every- 
day, to see them and to converse with them ; so that 
he came to love them very much, and they also loved 
him. This young man told his neighbours about the 
speaking swans, so that the matter became noised 
abroad; and it was he who arranged the story, after 
hearing it from themselves, and related it as it is 
related here. 

Again their hardships were renewed, and to de- 
scribe what they suffered on the great open Western 
Sea would be only to tell over again the story of their 
life on the Moyle. But one particular night caine, of 
frost so hard that the whole face of the sea, from Irros 
Domnann to Achill, was frozen into a thick floor of 
ice ; and the snow was driven by a north-west wind. 
On that night it seemed to the three brothers that 
they could not bear their sufferings any longer, and 
they began to utter loud and pitiful complaints. 
Finola tried to console them, but she was not able 
to do so, for they only lamented the more ; and then 
she herself began to lament with the others. 

After a time, Finola spoke to them and said, 
" My dear brothers, believe in the great and splendid 
God of truth, who made the earth with its fruits, and 
the sea with its wonders ; put your trust in Him, and 
He will send you help and comfort." 

" We believe in Him," said they. 

" And I also," said Finola, " believe in God, who is 
perfect in everything, and who knows all things." 


And at the destined hour they all believed, and 
the Lord of heaven sent them help and protection ; 
so that neither cold nor tempest molested them from 
that time forth, as long as they abode on the 
Western Sea. 

So they continued at the point of Irros Domnann, 
till they had fulfilled their appointed time there. And 
Finola addressed the sons of Lir 

" My dear brothers, the end of our time here has 
come ; we shall now go to visit our father and our 

And her brothers were glad when they heard this. 

Then they rose lightly from the face of the sea, 
and flew eastward with joyful hopes, till they reached 
Shee Finnaha. But when they alighted they found 
the place deserted and solitary, its halls all ruined and 
overgrown with rank grass and forests of nettles ; 
no houses, no fire, no mark of human habitation. 

Then the four swans drew close together, and they 
uttered three loud mournful cries of sorrow. 

And Finola chanted this lay 

What xneaneth this sad, this fearful change, 

That withers my heart with woe ? 
The house of my father all joyless and lone, 
Its halls and its gardens with weeds overgrown, 
A dreadful and strange overthrow ! 

Xo conquering heroes, no hounds for the chase, 

No shields in array on its walls, 
No bright silver goblets, no gay cavalcades, 
No youthful assemblies or high-born maids, 

To brighten its desolate halls ! 


An omen of sadness the home of our youth 

All ruined, deserted, and bare. 
Alas for the chieftain, the gentle and brave ; 
His glories and sorrows are stilled in the grave, 

And we left to live in despair ! 

From ocean to ocean, from age unto age, 

We have lived to the fulness of time ; 
Through a life such as men never heard of we'ye passed, 
In suffering and sorrow our doom has been cast, 

By our stepmother's pitiless crime ! 

The children of Lir remained that night in the 
ruins of the palace the home of their forefathers, 
where they themselves had been nursed ; and several 
times during the night they chanted their sad, sweet 
t'airy music. 

Early next morning they left Shee Finnaha, and 
flew west to Inis Glora, where they alighted on a 
small lake. There they began to sing so sweetly that 
all the birds of the district gathered in flocks round 
them on the lake, and on its shore, to listen to them ; 
so that the little lake came to be called the Lake of 
the Bird-flocks. 

During the day the birds used to fly to distant 
points of the coast to feed, now to Iniskea of the 
lonely crane,* now to Achill, and sometimes south- 
wards to Bonn's Sea Rocks,f and to many other islands 

* Iniskea ; a little rocky island near the coast of Erris, in Mayo. 
" The lonely crane of Iniskea" was one of the " Wonders of Ireland.'' 
According to an ancient legend, which still lives among the peasantry 
of Mayo, a crane one lonely bird has lived on the island since the 
beginning of the world, and will live there till the day of judgment. 

f Bonn's Sea Rocks called in the text Teacfl.Dhuinn, or Donn's 
House, which is also the present Irish name; a group of three rocks 


and headlands along the shore of the Western Sea, but 
they returned to Inis Glora every night. 

They lived in this manner till holy Patrick came 
to Erin with the pure faith ; and until Saint Kemoc 
came to Inis Glora. 

The first night Kemoc came to the island, the 
children of Lir heard his bell at early matin time, 
ringing faintly in the distance. And they trembled 
greatly, and started, and ran wildly about; for the 
sound of the bell was strange and dreadful to them, 
and its tones filled them with great fear. The three 
brothers were more affrighted than Finola, so that she 
was left quite alone ; but after a time they came to 
her, and she asked them 

" Do you know, my brothers, what sound is this ? " 

And they answered, "We have heard a faint, 
fearful voice, but we know not what it is." 

" This is the voice of the Christian bell," said 
Finola; "and now the end of our suffering is near; 
for this bell is the signal that we shall soon be freed 
from our spell, and released from our life of suffering ; 
for God has willed it" 

And she chanted this lay 

Listen, ye swans, to the voice of the bell, 

The sweet bell we've dreamed of for many a year ; 

Its tones floating by on the night breezes, tell 
Tnat the end of our long life of sorrow is near ! 

off Kenmare Bay, where Bonn, one of the Milesian brothers, was 
drowned. These Remarkable rocks are now called in English the 
M Bull, Cow, and Calf." 


Listen, ye swans, to the heavenly strain ; 

'Tis the anchoret tolling his soft matin bell : 
He has come to release us from sorrow, from pain, 

From the cold and tempestuous shores where we dwell ! 

Tmst in the glorious Lord of the sky ; 

He will free us from Eva's druidical spell : 
Be thankful and glad, for our freedom is nigh, 

And listen with joy to the voice of thabell! 

Then her brothers became calm; and the four 
swans remained listening to the music of the bell, till 
the cleric had finished his matins. 

" Let us sing our music now," said Finola. 

And they chanted a low, sweet, plaintive strain of 
fairy music, to praise and thank the great high King 
of heaven and earth. 

Kemoc heard the music from where he stood ; and 
he listened with great astonishment. But after a 
time it was revealed to him that it was the children 
of Lir who sang that music ; and he was glad, for it 
was to seek them he had come. 

When morning dawned he came to the shore of 
the lake, and he saw the four white swans swimming 
on the water. He spoke to them, and asked them 
were they the children of Lir. 

They replied, "We are indeed the children of 
Lir, who were changed long ago into swans by our 
wicked stepmother." 

" I give God thanks that I have found you," said 
Kemoc ; "for it is on your account I have come to this 
little island in preference to all the other islands of 
Erin. Come ye now to land, and trust in me ; for it is 


in this place that you are destined to be freed from 
your enchantment." 

So they, filled with joy on hearing the words of 
the cieric, came to the shore, and placed themselves 
under his care. He brought them to his own house, 
and, sending for a skilful workman, he caused him to 
make two bright, slender chains of silver ; and he put 
a chain between Finola and Aed, and the other chain 
he put between Ficra and Conn. 

So they lived with him, listening to his instruc- 
tions day by day, and joining in his devotions. They 
were the delight and joy of the cleric, and he loved 
them, with his whole heart ; and the swans were so 
happy that the memory of all the misery they had 
suffered during their long life on the waters caused 
them neither distress nor sorrow now. 



THE king who ruled over Connaught at this time was 
Largnen, the son of Colman ; and his queen was 
Decca, the daughter of Finnin,* king of Munster, the 
same king and queen whom Eva had spoken of in her 
prophecy long ages before. 

* These are well-known historical personages, who flourished 
in the seventh century. 


Now word was brought to queen Decca regarding 
these wonderful speaking swans, and their whole 
history was related to her ; so that even before she 
saw them, she could not help loving them, and she 
was seized with a strong desire to have them herself. 
So she went to the king, and besought him that he 
would go to Kemoc and get her the swans. But 
Largnen said that he did not wish to ask them from 
Kemoc. Whereupon Decca grew indignant ; and she 
declared that she would not sleep another night in the 
palace till he had obtained the swans for her. So 
she left the palace that very hour, and tied south- 
wards towards her father's home. 

Largnen, when he found she had gone, sent in 
haste after her, with word that he would try to pro- 
cure the swans ; but the messengers did not overtake 
her till she had reached Killaloe. However, she re- 
turned with them to the palace ; and as soon as she 
had arrived, the king sent to Kemoc to request that 
he would send the birds to the queen; but Kemoc 
refused to give them. 

Largnen became very angry at this ; and he set out 
at once for the cleric's house. As soon as he had 
come, he asked the cleric whether it was true that 
he had refused to give the swans to the queen. And 
when Kemoc answered that it was quite true, the 
king, being very wroth, went up to where the swans 
stood, and seizing the two silver chains, one in each 
hand, he drew the birds from the altar, and turned 
towards the door of the church, intending to bring 



them by force to the queen; while Kemoc followed 
him, much alarmed lest they should be injured. 

The king had proceeded only a little way, when 
suddenly the white feathery robes faded and dis- 
appeared ; and the swans regained their human shape, 
Finola being transformed into an extremely old woman, 
and the three sons into three feeble old men, white- 
haired and bony and wrinkled. 

When the king saw this, he started with affright, 
and instantly left the place without speaking one 
word ; while Kemoc reproached and denounced him 
very bitterly. 

As to the children of Lir, they turned towards 
Kemoc ; and Finola spoke 

" Come, holy cleric, and baptise us without delay, 
for our death is near. You will grieve after us, O 
Kemoc ; but in truth you are not more sorrowful at 
parting from us than we are at parting from you. 
Make our grave here and bury us together ; and as I 
often sheltered my brothers when we were swans, so 
let us be placed in the grave Conn standing near me 
at my right side, Ficra at my left, and Aed before my 

Come, holy priest, with book and prayer } 

Baptise and shrive us here : 
Haste, cleric, haste, for the hour has come, 

And death at last is near ! 

* Among the ancient Celtic nations, the dead were often buried 
standing up in the grave. It was in this way Finola and her brothers 
were buried. 


Dig our grave a deep, deep grave, 

Near the church we loved so well ; 
This little church, where first we heard 

The voice of the Christian ball. 

As oft in life my brothers dear 

Were sooth'd by me to rest 
Ficra and Conn beneath my wings, 

And Aed before my breast ; 

So place the two on either hand 

Close, like the love that bound me j 
Place Aed as close before my face, 

And twine their arms around me. 

Thus shall we rest for evermore, 

My brothers dear and I : 
Haste, cleric, haste, baptise and shrive, 

For death at last is nigh ! 

Then the children of Lir were -baptised, and they 
died immediately. And when they died, Kemoc 
looked up ; and lo, he saw a vision of four lovely 
children, with light, silvery wings, and faces all radiant 
with joy. They gazed on him for a moment; but 
even as they gazed, they vanished upwards, and he 
saw them no more. And he was filled with gladness, 
for he knew they had gone to heaven ; but when he 
looked down on the four bodies lying before him, he 
became sad and wept. 

And Kemoc caused a wide grave to be dug near 
the little church ; and the children of Lir were buried 
together, as Finola had directed Conn at her right 
hand, Ficra at her left, and Aed standing before her 
face. And he raised a grave-mound over them, placing 


a tcmbstone on it, with their names graved in Ogam;* 
after which he uttered a lament for them, and their 
funeral rites were performed. 

So far we have related the sorrowful story of the 
Fate of the Children of Lir. 

* Ogam, a sort of writing, often used on sepulchral stones to 
mark the Tmmes of the persons bnried. 





For the blood that we spilled, 
For the hero we killed, 
Toil and woe, toil and woe, till the doom is fulfilled ! 



WHEN the Dedannans l held sway in Erin, a prosperous 
free-born king ruled over them, whose name was 
Nuada of the Silver Hand. 4 

In the time of this king, the Fomorians, 5 from 
Lochlann, 6 in the north, oppressed the Dedannans, and 
forced them to pay heavy tributes ; namely, a tax on 
kneading-troughs, a tax on querns, and a tax on 
baking flags; and besides all this, an ounce of gold 
for each man of the Dedannans. These tributes had 
to be paid every year at the Hill of Usna ; * and if 
any one refused or neglected to pay his part, his nose 
was cut off by the Fomorian tyrants. 

* The Hill of Usna, in the parish of Conry, in Westmeath, one of 
the royal residences of Ireland. 


At this time a great fair-meeting was held by the 
king of Ireland, Nuada of the Silver Hand, on the 
Hill of Usna. Not long had the people been assem- 
bled, when they saw a stately band of warriors, all 
mounted on white steeds, coming towards them from 
the east ; and at their head, high in command over all, 
rode a young champion, tall and comely, with a coun- 
tenance as bright and glorious as the setting sun. 

This young warrior was Luga of the Long Arms. 7 
He was accompanied by his foster brothers, namely, 
the sons of Mannanan Mac Lir ; and the troop he led 
was the Fairy Host from the Land of Promise. 8 

Now in this manner was he arrayed. He rode the 
steed of Mannanan Mac Lir, 8 namely, Enbarr of the 
Flowing Mane : no warrior was ever killed on the 
back of this steed, for she was as swift as the clear, 
cold wind of spring, and she travelled with equal ease 
on land and on sea. He wore Mannanan's coat of 
mail : no one could be wounded through it, or above 
it, or below it. He had on his breast Mannanan's 
breast-plate, which no weapon could pierce. His 
helmet had two glittering precious stones set in front, 
and one behind ; and whenever he took it off, his face 
shone like the sun on a dry day in summer. Man- 
nanan's sword, The Answerer, hung at his left side : 
no one ever recovered from its wound ; and those who 
were opposed to it in the battle-field were so terrified 
by looking at it, that their strength left them till they 
became weaker than a woman in deadly sickness. 

This troop came forward to where the king of 


Erin sat surrounded by the Dedannans, and both 
parties exchanged friendly greetings. 

A short time after this they saw another company 
approaching, quite unlike the first, for they were grim 
and fierce and surly looking ; namely, the tax-gatherers 
of the Fomorians, to the number of nine nines, who 
were coming to demand their yearly tribute from the 
men of Erin. When they reached the place where the 
king sat, the entire assembly the king himself among 
the rest rose up before them. For the whole De- 
dannan raee stood in great dread of these Fomorian 
tax-collectors; so much so that no man dared even 
to chastise his own son without first seeking their 

Then Luga of the Long Arms spoke to the king 
and said, " Why have ye stood up before this hateful- 
looking company, when ye did not stand up for us ? " 

"We durst not do otherwise," replied the king; 
" for if even an infant of a month old remained seated 
before them, they would deem it cause enough for 
killing us all." 

When Luga heard this he brooded in silence for a 
little while, and then he said, " Of a truth, I feel a 
great desire to kill all these men ! " 

Then he mused again, and after a time, said, "I 
am strongly urged to kill these men ! " 

" That deed would doubtless bring great evil on 
us," said the king, " for then the Fomorians would be 
sure to send an army to destroy us all." 

But Luga, after another pause, started up, exclaim- 


ing, " Long have ye been oppressed in this manner ! " 
and so saying, he attacked the Fomorians, dealing red 
slaughter among them. Neither did he hold his hand 
till he had slain them all except nine. These he 
spared, because they ran with all speed and sat nigh 
the king, that he might protect them from Luga's 

Then Luga put his sword back into its scabbard, 
and said, " I would slay you also, only that I wish you 
to go and tell your king, and the foreigners in general, 
what you have seen." 

These nine men accordingly returned to their own 
country, and they told their tale to the Fomorian 
people from beginning to end how the strange, noble- 
faced youth had slain all the tax-collectors except 
nine, whom he spared that they might bring home the 

When they had ended speaking, the khi, Balor 9 of 
the Mighty Blows and of the Evil Eye, asked the 
chiefs, " Do ye know who this youth is ? " 

And when they answered, "No," Kethlenda, 9 
Balor 's queen, said 

" I know well who the youth is : he is the 
Ildana,* Luga of the Long Arms, the son of your 
daughter and mine ; and it has been long foretold that 
when he should appear in Erin, our sway over the 
Dedannans should come to an end." 

Then the chief people of the Fomorians held 

* Luga of the Long Arms is often called The Ildana, i.e. the 
Man of many sciences, to signify his various accomplishments. 


council ; namely, Balor of the Mighty Blows, and his 
twelve sons, and his queen Kethlenda of the Crooked 
Teeth ; Ebb and Sencab, the grandsons of Neid ; Sotal 
of the Large Heels ; Luath the Long-bodied ; Luath the 
Story-teller ;Tinna the Mighty, of Triscadal; Loskenn 
of the Bare Knees ; Lobas, the druid ; besides the nine 
prophetic poets and philosophers of the Fomorians. 

After they had debated the matter for some time, 
JBres, the son of Balor, arose and said, "I will go to 
Erin with seven great battalions of the Fomorian 
.army, and I will give battle to the Ildana, and I will 
bring his head to you to our palace of Berva." 6 

The Fomorian chiefs thought well of this pro- 
posal, and it was agreed to. 

So the ships were got ready for Bres; abundant 
.food and drink and war stores were put into them, 
their seams were calked with pitch, and they were 
filled with sweet-smelling frankincense. Meantime 
the two Luaths, that is to say, Luath the Story-teller 
.and Luath of the Long Body, were sent all over Loch- 
lann to summon the army. And when all the fighting 
men were gathered together, they arrayed themselves 
in their battle-dresses, prepared their arms, and set 
out for Erin. 

Balor went with them to the harbour where they 
were to embark, and when they were about to go on 
board, he said to them 

" Give battle to the Ildana, and cut off his head. 
And after ye have overcome him and his people, put 
your cables round this island of Erin, which gives us 


so much trouble, and tie it at the sterns of your ships : 
then sail home, bringing the island with you, and 
place it on the north side of Lochlann, whither none 
of the Dedannans will ever follow it." 

Then, having hoisted their many-coloured sails and 
loosed their moorings, they sailed forth from the 
harbour into the great sea, and never slackened speed 
or turned aside from their course till they reached the 
harbour of Eas-Dara.* And as soon as they landed, 
they sent forth an army through West Connaught, 
which wasted and spoiled the whole province. 



Now the king of Connaught at that time was Bove 
Derg, the son of the Dagda,t a friend to Luga of the 
Long Arms. It chanced that Luga was then at Tara,| 
and news was brought to him that the Fomorians 
had landed at Eas-Dara, and were spoiling and wasting 
the province. He immediately got ready his steed, 
Enbarr of the Flowing Mane; and early in the morning, 
when the point of night met the day, he went to the 
king and told him that the foreigners had landed, and 

* Eas-Dara, now Ballysodare, in the county Sligo. 

t See page 1. 

J Tara, in Meath, the chief seat of the kings of Ireland. 


that they had wasted and plundered the province of 
Bove I) erg. 

" I shall give them battle," said Luga ; " and I wish 
to get from thee some help of men and arms." 

" I will give no help/' said the king ; " for I do not 
wish to avenge a deed that has not been done against 

When Luga heard this reply he was wroth, and 
departing straightway from Tara, he rode westward. 
He had not travelled long when he saw at a distance 
three warriors, fully armed, riding towards him. Now 
these were three brothers, the sons of Canta ; namely, 
Kian and Cu and Kethen; and Kian was Luga's 
father. And they saluted each other, and conversed 
together for a time. 

" Why art thou abroad so early ? " said they. 

"Cause enough have I," replied Luga; "for the 
Fomorians have landed in Erin, and have wasted the 
province of Bove Derg, the son of the Dagda. It is 
well indeed that I have met you, for I am about 
to give them battle, and I wish now to know what aic 1 
I shall get from you." 

" We will go into the battle with you," said they ; 
" and each of us will ward off from you a hundred oi 
the Fomorian warriors." 

" That, indeed, is good help," said Luga ; " but, for 
the present, I wish you to go to the several places 
throughout Erin where the Fairy Host * are abiding, 
and summon them all to me." 

* Fairy Host, i.e. the Dedannans. (See notes 1 and 8 at end.) 


The three brothers accordingly separated, Cu and 
Kethen going south, while Luga's father, Kian, turned 
his face northwards, and rode on till he came to Moy 
Murthemna.* He had not been long travelling over 
the plain when he saw three warriors, clad in armour 
and fully armed, coming towards him. These were 
three Dedannan chiefs, the sons of Turenn, and their 
names were Brian, Ur, and Urcar. Now these three and 
the three sons of Canta were at deadly feud with 
each other, on account of an old quarrel, and whenever 
they met there was sure to be a fight for life or death. 

As soon as Kian saw these three, he said, " If my 
two brothers were now with me, we should have a 
brave fight ; but as they are not, and as I am only one 
against three, it is better to avoid the combat." So 
saying, he looked round, and seeing near him a herd 
of swine t^ struck himself with a golden druidical 3 
wand, anc changed himself into a pig ; and he quickly 
joined the herd. 

No sooner had he done so than Brian, the eldest 
of the sons of Turenn, said to his brothers, " Tell me, 
my brothers, do you know what has become of the 
warrior that we saw just now approaching us on the 
plain ? " 

"We saw him," said they, "but we know not 
whither he has gone." 

" You deserve great blame," said he, " that you are 
not more watchful while traversing the country during 
this time of war. Now I know what has happened 

* Moy Murthemna, a plain in tke county of Loath. 


to this warrior ; he has changed himself, by a druidical 
spell, into a pig ; and he is now among yonder herd. 
And whoever he may be, of this be sure he is no 
friend of ours." 

" This is an unlucky matter," said they ; " for as 
these pigs belong to one of the Dedannans, it would be 
wrong for us to kill them ; and even if we should do 
so, the enchanted pig might escape after all." 

" But," answered Brian, " I think I can manage to 
distinguish any druidical beast from a natural one; 
and if you had attended well to your learning, you 
would be able to do the same." 

Saying this, he struck his brothers one after the 
other with his golden druidical wand, and turned them 
into two fleet, slender, sharp-nosed hounds. The 
moment he had done so they put their noses to the 
earth, and, yelping eagerly, set off towards the herd on 
the trail of their enemy. When they had come near, 
the druidical pig fell out from the herd, and made 
towards a thick grove that grew hard by ; but Brian 
was there before him, and drove his spear through his 

The pig screamed and said, " You have done an ill 
deed to cast your spear at me, for you know well who 
I am." 

" Your voice, methinks, is the voice of a man," said 
Brian ; " but I know not who you are." 

And the pig answered, " I am Kian, the sou of 
Canta; and now I ask you to give me quarter." 

Ur and Urcar, who had regained their shape and 


come up, said, " We will give you quarter indeed, and 
we are sorry for what has happened to you." 

But Brian, on the other hand, said, " I swear by the 
gods of the air, that if your life returned to you seven 
times, I would take it from you seven times." 

"Then," said Kian, "as you will not grant me 
quarter, allow me first to return to my own shape." 

" That we will grant you," said Brian ; " for I often 
feel it easier to kill a man than to kill a pig." 

Kian accordingly took his own shape ; and then he 
said, " You indeed, ye sons of Turenn, are now about 
to slay me ; but even so, I have outwitted you. For 
if you had slain me in the shape of a pig, you would 
have to pay only the eric-fine 10 for a pig; whereas, 
now that I am in my own shape, you shall pay the 
full fine for a man. And there never yet was killed, 
and there never shall be killed, a man for whom a 
greater fine shall be paid, than you will have to pay 
for me. The weapons with which I am slain shall 
tell the deed to my son ; and he will exact the fine 
from you." 

" You shall not be slain with the weapons of a 
warrior," said Brian; and so saying, he and his 
brothers laid aside their arms, and smote him fiercely 
and rudely with the round stones of the earth, till they 
had reduced his body to a disfigured mass ; and in this 
manner they slew him. 

They then buried him a man's height in the earth . 

but the earth, being angry at the fratricide,* refused 

* Fratricide ; Gaelic, fionghal, the murder of a relative. (See note, 


to receive the body, and cast it up on the surface. 
They buried him a second time, and again the body 
was thrown up from beneath the clay. Six times the 
sons of Turenn buried the body of Kian a man's 
height in the earth, and six times did the earth cast it 
up, refusing to receive it. But when they had buried 
him the seventh time, the earth refused no longer, and 
the body remained in the grave. 

Then the sons of Turenn prepared to go forward 
after Luga of the Long Arms to the battle. But as 
they were leaving the grave, they thought they heard 
a faint, muffled voice coming up from the ground 
beneath their feet 

The blood you have spilled, 
The hero you've killed, 
Shall follow your steps till your doom be fulfilled I 



Now as to Luga. After parting from his father, he 
journeyed westward till he reached Ath-Luan,* thence 

page 7.) The sons of Turenn and the sons of Canta appear to have been 
related to each other (see the third stanza of the poem, page 94). 

* Ath-Lucm, now Athlone ; Ros-Coman, now Roscommon; Moy- 
Lurg, a plain in the county Roscommon ; Curlieu Hills, a range of 
hills near Boyle, in Roscommon ; Kesh-Corran, a well-known 
mountain in Sligo. The " Great Plain of the Assembly " must have 
been near Ballysodare, in Sligo. 


to Ros-Coman, and over Moy-Lurg to the Curlieu Hills, 
and to the mountain of Kesh-Corran, till he reached 
the " Great Plain of the Assembly," where the foreigners 
were encamped, with the spoils of Con naught around 

As he drew nigh to the Fomorian encampment, 
Bres, the son of Balor, arose and said 

" A wonderful thing has come to pass this day ; foi 
the sun, it seems to me, has risen in the west." 

" It would be better that it were so," said the 
druids, 3 " than that matters should be as they are." 
" What else can it be, then ? " asked Bres. 
"The light you see," replied the druids, "is the 
brightness of the face, and the flashing of the weapons 
of Luga of the Long Arms, our deadly enemy, he 
who slew our tax-gatherers, and who now approaches." 
Then Luga came up peacefully and saluted them. 
" How does it come to pass that you salute us," said 
they, " since you are, as we know well, our enemy ? " 

" I have good cause for saluting you," answered 
Luga ; " for only one hah of my blood is Dedannan ; 
the other half comes from you ; for I am the son of 
the daughter of Balor of the Mighty Blows, your 
king. 7 And now I come in peace, to ask you to give 
back to the men of Connaught all the milch cows you 
have taken from them." 

" May ill luck follow thee," said one of the Fomo- 
rian leaders, in a voice loud and wrathful, " until thou 
get one of them, either a milch cow or a dry cow !" 
And the others spoke in a like strain. 


Then Luga put a druidical spell upon the plundered 
cattle; and he sent all the milch cows home, each to 
the door of her owner's house, throughout all that 
part of Connaught that had been plundered. But the 
dry cows he left, so that the Fomorians might be 
cumbered, and that they might not leave their en- 
campment till the Fairy Host should arrive to give 
them battle. 

Luga tarried three days and three nights near 
them, and at the end of that time the Fairy Host 
arrived, and placed themselves under his command. 
They encamped near the Fomorians, and in a little 
time Bove Derg, son of the Dagda, joined them with 
twenty-nine hundred men. 

Then they made ready for the fight. The Hdana 
put on Mannanan's coat of mail and his breast-plate ; 
he took also his helmet, which was called Cannbarr, 
and it glittered in the sun with dazzling brightness; 
he slung his broad, dark-blue shield from his shoulder 
at one side ; his long, keen-edged sword hung at his 
thigh ; and lastly, he took his two long, heavy-handled 
spears, which had been tempered in the poisonous 
blood of adders. The other kings and chiefs of the 
men of Erin arrayed their men in battle ranks; 
hedges of glittering spears rose high above their 
heads ; and their shields, placed edge to edge, formed 
a firm fence around them. 

Then at the signal they attacked the Fomorians, 
and the Fomorians, in no degree dismayed, answered 
their onset. At first a cloud of whizzing javelins flew 


from rank to rank across the open space, and as the 
warriors rushed together in closer conflict, their spears 
were shivered in their hands. Then they drew their 
gold-hilted swords, and fought foot to foot and shield 
to shield, so that a forest of bright flashes rose high 
above their helmets, from the clashing of their keen- 
tempered weapons. 

In the midst of the fight, Luga looked round, and 
seeing at some distance, Bres, surrounded by his 
Fomorian warriors, dealing havoc and death among 
the Dedannans, he rushed through the press of battle, 
and attacked first Bres's guards so fiercely that in 
a few moments twenty of them fell beneath his blows. 

Then he struck at Bres himself, who, unable to 
withstand his furious onset, cried aloud 

" Why should we be enemies, since thou art of my 
kin ? Let there be peace between us, for nothing can 
withstand thy blows. Let there be peace, and I will 
undertake to bring my Fomorians to assist thee at 
Moytura, 11 and I will promise never again to come 
to fight against thee." 

And Bres swore by the sun and the moon, by the 
sea and land, and by all the elements,* to fulfil his 
engagement; and on these conditions Luga granted 
him his life. 

Then the Fomorians, seeing their chief overcome, 
dropped their arms, and sued for quarter. The Fomo- 

* A usual form of oath among the ancient Irish. (See, for an 
account of this oath, the author's "Origin and History of Irish 
Names of Places," Series II. chap. XIV.) 


rian druids and men of learning next came to Luga 
to ask him to spare their lives; and Luga answered 

" So far am I from wishing to slay you, that in 
truth, if you had taken the whole Fomorian race 
under your protection, I would have spared them." 

And after this, Bres, the son of Balor, returned to 
his own country with his druids, and with those of 
his army who had escaped from the battle. 



TOWARDS the close of the day, when the battle was 
ended, Luga espied two of his near friends ; and he 
asked them if they had seen his father, Kian, in the 
fight. And when they answered, " No," Luga said 

" My father is not alive ; for if he lived he would 
surely have come to help me in the battle. And now 
I swear that neither food nor drink will I take till 
I have found out who has slain him, and the manner 
of his death." 

Then Luga set out with a small chosen band of 
the Fairy Host, and he halted not till he reached the 
place where he had parted from his father. And from 
that he travelled on to the plain of Murthemna, where 


Kian had been forced to take the shape of a pig to 
avoid the sons of Turenn, and where they had slain 

When he had come near to the very spot, he 
walked some little way before his companions, and 
the stones of the earth spoke beneath his feet, and 

"Here thy father lies, O Luga. Grievous was 
Kian's strait when he was forced to take the shape 
of a pig on seeing the three sons of Turenn ; and here 
they slew him in his own shape ! " 

The blood that they spilled, 
The hero they killed, 
Shall darken their lives till their doom be fulfilled ! 

Luga stood for a while silent, pondering on these 
words. But as his companions came up, he told them 
what had happened ; and having pointed out the spot 
from which the voice came, he caused the ground to 
be dug up. There they found the body, and raised it 
to the surface ; and when they had examined it, they 
saw that it was covered all over with gory wounds 
and bruises. 

Then Luga spoke after a long silence, "A cruel 
and merciless death has my beloved father suffered at 
the hands of the sons of Turenn ! " 

He kissed his father's face three times, and again 
spoke, grieving, " 111 fare the day on which my father 
was slain ! Woful is this deed to me, for my eyes see 
not, my ears hear not, and my heart's pulse has ceased 
to beat, for grief. Why, O ye gods whom I worship, 


why was I not present when this deed was done ? 
Alas ! an evil thing has happened, for the Dedannans 
have slain their brother Dedannan. Ill shall they fare 
of this fratricide, for its consequences shall follow 
them, and long shall the crime of brother against 
brother continue to be committed in Erin ! " 
And he spoke this speech 

A dreadful doom my father found 

On that ill-omened even-tide ; 
And here I mourn beside the mound, 

Where, whelmed by numbers, Kian died, 
This lonely mound of evil fame, 
That long shall bear the hero's name 1 

Alas! an evil deed is done, 

And long shall Erin rue the day : 
There shall be strife 'twixt sire and son, 

And brothers shall their brothers slay ; 
Vengeance shall smite the murderers too, 
And vengeance all their race pursue ! 

The light has faded from mine eyes 5 
My youthful strength and power have fled 

Weary my heart with ceaseless sighs ; 
Ambition, hope, and joy are dead ; 

And all the world is draped in gloom 

The shadow of my father's tomb 1 

Then they placed the hero again in the grave, and 
they raised a tomb over him with his name graved in 
Ogam ; * after which his lamentation lays were sung, 
and his funeral games were performed. 

When these rites were ended, Luga said to his 
people, " Go ye now to Tara, where the king of Erin 

* A kind of writing. (See note, page 86.) 


sits on his throne with the Dedannans around him , 
but do not make these things known till I myself 
have told them." 

So Luga's people went straightway to Tara, as he 
had bade them ; but of the murder of Kian they said 
naught. Luga himself arrived some time after, and 
was received with great honour, being put to sit high 
over the others, at the king's side ; for the fame of his 
mighty deeds at the battle of the Assembly Plain had 
been noised over the whole country, and had come to 
the ears of the king. 

After he was seated, he looked round the hall, and 
saw the sons of Turenn in the assembly. Now these 
three sons of Turenn exceeded all the champions in 
Tara, in comeliness of person, in swiftness of foot, 
and in feats of arms ; and, next to Luga himself, they 
were the best and bravest in the battles against the 
Fomorians ; wherefore they were honoured by the king 
beyond most others. 

Luga asked the king that the chain of silence * 
should be shaken ; and when it was shaken, and when 
all were listening in silence, he stood up and spoke 

" I perceive, ye nobles of the Dedannan race, that 
you have given me your attention, and now I have 
a question to put to each man here present : What 
vengeance would you take of the man who should 
knowingly and of design kill your father ? " 

* Chain of silence; a chain, probably hung with little bells, whicl 
the lord of & mansion shook when he wished to get silence am 


They were all struck with amazement on hearing 
this, and the king of Erin said 

" What does this mean ? For that your father has 
not been killed, this we all know well!" 

" My father has indeed been killed," answered 
Luga ; " and I see now here in this hall those who slew 
him. And furthermore, I know the manner in which 
they put him to death, even as they know it them- 

The sons of Turenn, hearing all this, said nothing ; 
but the king spoke aloud and said 

" If any man should wilfully slay my father, it is 
not in one hour or in one day I would have him put 
to death ; but I would lop off one of his members 
each day, till I saw him die in torment under my 
hands ! " 

All the nobles said the same, and the sons of 
Turenn in like manner. 

" The persons who slew my father are here present, 
and are joining with the rest in this judgment," said 
Luga; "and as the Dedannans are all now here to 
witness, I claim that the three who have done this 
evil deed shall pay me a fitting eric-fine for my father. 
Should they refuse, I shall not indeed transgress the 
king's law nor violate his protection but of a certainty 
they shall not leave this hall of Micorta * till the 
matter is settled." 

And the king of Erin said, " If I had killed your 

* Mico'rta ; the name of the great banqueting hall of Tara, the 
rnins of which are to be seen to this day. 


father, I should be well content if you were willing 
to accept an eric- fine from me." 

Now the sons of Turenn spoke among themselves ; 
and Ur and Urcar said, "It is of us Luga speaks this 
speech. He has doubtless found out that we slew hi.s 
father ; and it is better that we now acknowledge the 
deed, for it will avail us naught to hide it." 

Brian, however, at first set his face against this, 
saying that he feared Luga only wanted an acknow- 
ledgment from them in presence of the other De- 
dannans, and that afterwards he might not accept a 
fine. But the other two were earnest in pressing him, 
so that he consented, and then he spoke to Luga 

" It is of us thou speakest all these things, Luga ; 
for it has been said that we three have been at enmity 
with the three sons of Canta. Now, as to the slaying 
of thy father Kian, let that matter rest ; but we are 
willing to pay an eric-fine for him, even as if we had 
killed him." 

" I shall accept an eric-fine from you," said Luga, 
" though ye indeed fear I shall not. I shall now name 
before this assembly the fine I ask, and if you think 
it too much, I shall take off a part of it. 

" The first part of my eric-fine is three apples ; the 
second part is the skin of a pig ; the third is a spear ; 
the fourth, two steeds and a chariot ; the fifth, seven 
pigs ; the sixth, a hound- whelp ; the seventh, a cooking- 
spit ; and the eighth, three shouts on a hill. That is 
my eric," said Luga ; " and if ye think it too much, say 
so now, that I may remit a part ; but if not, then it 
will be well that ye set about paying it." 


" So far," said Brian, " we do not deem it too 
great. It seems, indeed, so small that we fear there is 
some hidden snare in what you ask, which may work 
us mischief." 

"I do not deem my eric too small," said Luga; 
"and now I engage here, before the assembled De- 
dannans, that I will ask no more, and that I will seek 
no further vengeance for my father's death. But, as I 
have made myself answerable to them for the faithful 
fulfilment of my promise, I demand the same guarantee 
from you, that you also be faithful to me." 

" Alas that you should doubt our plighted word ! " 
said the sons of Turenn. "Are we not ourselves 
sufficient guarantee for the payment of an eric-fine 
greater even than this ? " 

" I do not deem your word sufficient guarantee," 
answered Luga; "for often have we known great 
warriors like you to promise a fine before all the 
people, and afterwards to go back of their promise." 

And the sons of Turenn consented, though un- 
willingly, for they grieved that their word should be 
doubted. So they bound themselves on either side 
Luga not to increase his claims; and the sons of 
Turenn, on their part, to pay him the full fine. And 
the king of Erin and Bove Derg, son of the Dagda, 
and the nobles of the Dedannans in general, were 
witnesses and sureties of this bond. 

Then Luga stood up and said, "It is now time 
that I give you a full knowledge of this eric-fine. 

" The three apples I ask are the apples of the 


Garden of Hisberna,* in the east of the world, and 
none others will I have. There are no apples in the 
rest of the world like them, for their beauty and for 
the secret virtues they possess. Their colour is the 
colour of burnished gold; they have the taste of honey; 
and if a wounded warrior or a man in deadly sickness 
eat of them, he is cured immediately. And they are 
never lessened by being eaten, being as large and 
"perfect at the end as at the beginning. Moreover 
any champion that possesses one of them may perform 
with it whatsoever feat he pleases, by casting it from 
his hand, and the apple will return to him of itself. 
And though you are three brave warriors, ye sons of 
Turenn, methinks you will not find it easy to bring 
away these apples ; for it has been long foretold that 
three young champions from the Island of the West 
would come to take them by force, so that the king 
has set guards to watch for your coming. 

" The pig's skin I seek from you belongs to Tuis, 
the king of Greece. When the pig was alive, every 
stream of water through which she walked was turned 
into wine for nine days, and all sick and wounded 
people that touched her skin were at once cured, 
if only the breath of life remained. Now the king's 
druids told him that the virtue lay, not in the pig 
herself, but in her skin ; so the king had her killed and 
skinned, and he has her skin now. This, too, ye valiant 
champions, is a part of my eric-fine which you will 
find it hard to get, either by force or by friendship. 

* The Garden of the Hesperides. 


" The spear I' demand from you is the venomed 
spear of Pezar, king of Persia. Its name is Slaughterer. 
In time of peace, its blazing, fiery head is always kept 
in a great caldron of water, to prevent it from burning 
down the king's palace; and in time of war, the 
champion who bears it to the battle-field can perform 
any deed he pleases with it. And it will be no easy 
matter to get this spear from the king of Persia. 

" The two steeds and the chariot belong to Dobar, 
king of Sigar.* The chariot exceeds all the chariots 
in the world for beauty of shape and goodliness of 
workmanship. The two noble steeds have no equal 
for strength and fleetness, and they travel with as 
much ease on sea as on land. 

" The seven pigs I demand are the pigs of Asal, 
the king of the Golden Pillars. Whoever eats a part 
of them shall not suffer from ill health or disease ; and 
even though they should be killed and eaten to-day, 
they will be alive and well to-morrow. 

" The hound- whelp belongs to the king of Iroda,t 
and his name is Failinis. He shines as brightly as 
the sun in a summer sky ; and every wild beast of the 
forest that sees him falls down to the earth powerless 
before him. 

" The cooking-spit belongs to the warlike women 
of the island of Fincara. They are thrice fifty in 
number, and woe to the champion who approaches 

* Sigar, i.e. Sicily. 

t Iroda was the name given by the Irish to some country in the 
far north of Europe, probably Norway. 


their house; for each of them is a match for three 
good warriors in single combat; and they never yet 
gave a cooking-spit to any one without being over- 
come in battle. 

" The hill on which I require you to give three 
shouts is the Hill of Midkena, in the north of Lochlann." 
Midkena and his sons are always guarding this hill, 
for they are under gesa 12 not to allow any one to 
shout on it. Moreover, it was they that instructed my 
father in championship and feats of arms, and they 
loved him very much ; so that even if I should forgive 
you his death they would not. And, though you 
should be able to- procure all the rest of the eric-fine, 
you will not, I think, succeed in this, for they will 
be sure to avenge on you my father's death. 

" And this, ye sons of Turenn, is the eric-fine I 
demand from you 1 " 



THE sons of Turenn were so astounded on hearing 
this eric-fine that they spoke not one word ; but rising 
up, they left the meeting, and repaired to the house 
of their father Turenn. 


He heard their story to the end, and then said, 
" Your tidings are bad, my sons, and I fear me you are 
doomed to meet your death in seeking what the 
Ildana asks. But the doom is a just one, for it was 
an evil thing to kill Kian. Now as to this eric-fine : it 
cannot be obtained by any living man without the 
help of either Luga himself or of Mannanan Mac Lir ; s 
but if Luga wishes to aid you, ye shall be able to 
get it. Go ye now, therefore, and ask him to lend you 
Mannanan's steed, Enbarr of the Flowing Mane. If 
he wishes you to get the full eric-line, he will lend 
you the steed; otherwise he will refuse, saying that 
she does not belong to him, and that he cannot lend 
what he himself has got on loan. Then, if ye obtain 
not the steed, ask him for the loan of Mannanan's 
canoe, the Wave-sweeper, which would be better for 
you than the steed ; and he will lend you that, for he 
is forbidden to refuse a second request." 

So the sons of -Turenn returned to Luga, and 
having saluted him, they said 

" It is not in the power of any man to obtain this 
eric-fine without thy own aid, Luga ; we ask thee, 
therefore, to lend us Mannanan's steed, Enbarr of the 
Flowing Mane." 

" That steed is not my own," said Luga ; " and 1 
cannot lend that which I have myself obtained on 

" If that be so," said Brian, " then I pray thee lend 
us Mannanan's canoe, the Wave-sweeper." 

" I shall lend you that," replied Luga ; " it lies at 


Bruga of the Boyne ; * and ye have my consent to 
take it." 

So they came again to their father, and this time 
Ethnea, their sister, was with him; and they told 
them that Luga had given them the canoe. 

"I have much fear," said Turenn, "that it will 
avail you little against the dangers of your quest. 
Nevertheless, Luga desires to obtain that part of the 
eric that will be useful to him at the battle of Moy- 
tura, 11 and so far he will help you. But in seeking 
that which is of no advantage to him, namely, the 
cooking-spit, and the three shouts on Midkena's Hill, 
therein he will give you no aid, and he will be glad 
if ye perish in your attempts to obtain it." 

They then set out for Bruga of the Boyne, accom- 
panied by their sister Ethnea, leaving Turenn lament- 
ing after them. The canoe they found lying in the 
river ; and Brian went into it and said 

" It seems to me that only one other person can 
sit here along with me;" and he began to complain 
rery bitterly of its smallness. He ceased, however, 
at the bidding of Ethnea, who told him that the 
canoe would turn out large enough when they came 
to try it, and that it was under strict command not to 
let any one grumble at its smallness. And she went 
on to say 

" Alas, my beloved brothers, it was an evil deed 

* Bruga of the Boyne, the palace of Angus, the great Dedannan 
magician, was situated on the north shore of the Boyne, not far from 
Slane. (See note 1 at end.) 


co slay the father of Luga of the Long Arms ! and 
I fear you will suffer much woe and hardsh'T* on 
account of it." 


The deed was a dark one, a deed full of woe, 

Your brother Dedannan to slay ; 
And hard and relentless the heart of your foe, 
The bright-faced Hdana, that forced you to go, 

This eric of vengeance to pay ! 


Oh, cease, sister Ethnea, cease thy sad wail : 

Why yield to this terror and gloom ? 
Long, long shall the poets remember the tale, 
For our courage and valour and swords shall prevail, 

Or win as a glorious tomb ! 


Then search ye, my brothers, go search land and sea ; 

Go search ye the isles of the East. 
Alas, that the cruel Ildana's decree 
Has banished my three gentle brothers from me, 

On this fearful and perilous quest 1 



AFTER this the three brothers entered the canoe, 
which they now found large enough to hold them- 
selves and their arms, and whatsoever else they wished 
to bring; for this was one of its secret gifts. They 


then bade their sister farewell, and, leaving her weeping 
on the shore, they rowed swiftly till they had got 
beyond the beautiful shores and bright harbours of 
Erin, out on the open sea. 

Then the two younger brothers said, "Now our 
quest begins : what course shall we take ? " 

Brian answered, " As the apples are the first part of 
the fine, we shall seek them first." 

And then he spoke to the canoe, " Thou canoe of 
ilannanan, thou Sweeper of the waves, we ask thee 
and we command thee, that thou sail straightway to 
the Garden of Hisberna ! " 

The eanoe was not unmindful of the voice of its 
master, and obeyed the command without delay, 
according to its wont. It took the shortest way across 
the deep sea-chasms, and, gliding over the green-sided 
waves more swiftly than the clear, cold wind of March, 
it stayed not in its course till it reached the harbour 
near the land of Hisberna. 

Brian now spoke to his brothers, " Be sure that 
this quest is a perilous one, since we know that the 
best champions of the country, with the king at their 
head, are always guarding the apples. And now in 
what manner, think you, is it best for us to approach 
the garden ? " 

" It seems to us," answered his brothers, " that we 
had better go straight and attack these champions, and 
either bring away the apples, or fall fighting for them. 
For we cannot escape the dangers that lie before us ; 
and if we are doomed to fall in one of these adventures, 


it may, perchance, be better for us to die here than to 
prolong our hardships." 

But Brian answered, " Not so, my brothers ; for it 
becomes a warrior to be prudent and wary as well as 
brave. We should now act so that the fame of our 
skill and valour may live after us, and that future men 
may not say, ' These sons of Turenn did not deserve to 
be called brave champions, for they were senseless and 
rash, and sought their own death by their folly.' In 
the present case, then, what I counsel is this : Let us 
take the shape of strong, swift hawks ; and as we 
approach the garden, have ye care of the light, sharp 
lances of the guards, which they will certainly hurl at 
us : avoid them actively and cunningly, and when the 
men have thrown all, let us swoop down and bring 
away an apple each." 

They approved this counsel; and Brian, striking 
his two brothers and himself with a druidical magic 
wand, all three were changed into three beautiful 
hawks. Then, flying swiftly to the garden, they 
began to descend in circles towards the tops of the 
trees ; but the sharp-eyed guards perceived them, and 
with a great shout they threw showers of venomous 
darts at them. The hawks, however, mindful of 
Brian's warning, watched the spears with keen glances, 
and escaped them every one, until the guards had 
thrown all their light weapons. Then, swooping 
suddenly down on the trees, the two younger brothers 
carried off an apple each, and Brian two, one between 
his talons and the other in his beak; and the three 



rose again into the air without wound or hurt of any 
kind. Then, directing their course westward, they 
flew over the wide sea with the speed of an arrow. 

The news spread quickly through the city, how 
three beautiful hawks had carried off the apples ; and 
the king and his people were in great wrath. Now 
the king had three daughters, very skilful in magic 
and cunning in counsel; and they forthwith trans- 
formed themselves into three swift-winged, sharp- 
taloned griffins, and pursued the hawks over the 
sea. But the hawks, when they saw they were 
pursued, increased their speed, and flew like the wind, 
and left their pursuers so far behind that they 
appeared to the griffins like three specks on the 
sky. Then the angry griffins let fly from their eyes, 
and from their open beaks, bright flashes of flame 
straight forward, which overtook and blinded the 
hawks, and scorched them, so that they could bear the 
heat no longer. 

" Evil is our state now," said Ur and Urcar, " for 
these sheets of flame are burning us, and we shall 
perish if we do not get relief." 

"I will try whether I cannot relieve you," said Brian; 
and with that he struck his brothers and himself with 
his golden druidical wand ; and all three were instantly 
turned into swans. The swans dropped down on the 
sea; and when the griffins saw the hawks no longer 
straight before them, they gave up the chase. And 
the sons of Turenn went safely to their canoe, bring- 
ing the apples with them. 




AFTER resting a little while, they held council as to 
their next journey ; and what they resolved on was 
to go to Greece, to seek the skin of the pig, and to 
bring it away, either by consent or by force. So they 
went into the canoe, and Brian spoke 

"Thou canoe of Mannanan, thou Sweeper of the 
Waves, we ask thee and we command thee that thou 
sail with us straightway to Greece ! " 

And the canoe, obeying as before, glided swiftly 
and smoothly over the waves, till the sons of Turenn 
landed near the palace of the king of Greece. 

" In what shape, think you, should we go to this 
court ? " said Brian. 

" We think it best," answered the others, " to 
go in our own shapes; that is to say, as three bold 

" Not so," said Brian. " It seems best to me that 
we should go in the guise of learned poets from Erin ; 
for poets are held in much honour and respect by the 
great nobles of Greece." 

" It is, indeed, hard for us to do that," answered his 
brothers, " for as to poems, we neither have any, nor 
do we know how to compose them." 

However, as Brian would have it so, they con- 
sented, though unwillingly; and, tying up their hair 


after the manner of poets, they knocked at the door of 
the palace. The door-keeper asked who was there. 

" We are skilful poets from Erin," said Brian, " and 
we have come to Greece with a poem for the king." 
The door-keeper went and gave the message. 

" Let them be brought in," said the king, " for it is 
to seek a good and bountiful master whom they may 
serve faithfully that they have come so far from Erin/' 

The sons of Turenn were accordingly led in to the 
banquet hall, where sat the king surrounded by his 
nobles ; and, bowing low, they saluted him ; and he 
saluted them in return, and welcomed them. They sat 
at the table among the company, and joined the feast 
at once, drinking and making merry like the others ; 
and they thought they had never seen a banquet hall 
so grand, or a household so numerous and mirthful. 

At the proper time the king's poets arose, according 
to custom, to recite their poems and their lays for the 
company. And when they had come to an end, Brian, 
speaking low, said to his brothers 

"As we have come here as poets, it is meet that 
we should practise the poetic art like the others ; 
therefore now arise, and recite a poem for the king." 

" We have no poems," they replied, " and we do 
not wish to practise any art except the art we have 
learned and practised from our youth, namely, to fight 
like brave champions, and to take by valour and force 
of arms that which we want, if we be stronger than 
our enemies, or to fall in battle if they be the 


"That is not a pleasant way of making poetry," 
said Brian ; and with that he arose and requested 
attention for his poem. And when they sat listening, 
he said 

To praise thee, Tnis, we've come to this land : 
Like an oak among shrubs, over kings thou dost stand : 
Thy bonnty, great monarch, shall gladden the bard ; 
And the Imnocta-fessa I claim as reward. 

Two neighbours shall war, with an O to an ; 
A bard unrequited how dreadful a foe ! 
Thy bounty shall add to thy wealth and thy fame ; 
And the Imnocta-fessa is all that I claim. 

"Your poem would doubtless be thought a very 
good one," said the king, " if we were able to judge of 
it ; but it is unlike all other poems I have ever heard, 
for I do not in the least understand its sense." 

" I will unfold its sense," said Brian. 

To praise thee, O Tuis, we've come to this land : 

Like an oak among shrubs, over kings thou dost stand : 

" This means that as the oak excels all the other trees 
of the forest, so dost thou excel all the other kings of 
the world for greatness, nobility, and generosity. 

" ' Imnocta-fessa.' Imnocta means ' skin,' and fessa 
' a pig.' That is to say; thou hast, king, the skin of 
a pig, which I desire to get from thee as a guerdon 
for my poetry. 

Two neighbours shall war, with an to an ; 
A bard unrequited how dreadful a foe ! 

"0 means 'an ear;' that is to say, thou and 1 shall 


be ear to ear fighting with each other for the skin, if 
thou give it not of thy own free will. 

" And that, king, is the sense of my poem." 

"Thy poem would have been a very good one," 
said the king, " and I would have given it due meed 
of praise if my pig's skin had not been mentioned in 
it. But it is a foolish request of thine, ferdana,* 
to ask for that skin; for, even though all the poets 
and men of science of Erin, and all the nobles of the 
whole world were to demand it from me, I would 
refuse it. Nevertheless, thou shalt not pass unre- 
warded, for I will give thee thrice the full of the skin 
of red gold one for thyself, and one for each of thy 

" Thy ransom is a good one, king," said Brian ; 
"but I am a near-hearted and suspicious man, and 
I pray thee let me see with my eyes thy servants 
measure the gold, lest they deal unfairly with me." 

The king agreed to this; so his servants went with 
the three sons of Turenn to the treasure-room, and one 
of them drew forth the skin from its place, to measure 
the gold. As soon as Brian caught sight of it, ha 
sprang suddenly towards the servant, and, clashing 
him to the ground with his right hand, he snatched 
the skin with his left, and bound it hastily over his 

Then the three drew their keen swords, and rushed 
into the banquet hall. The king's nobles, seeing how 
matters stood, surrounded and attacked them ; but the 

* Ferdana, a poet ; literally, " a man of verse." 


sons of Turenn, nothing daunted by the number of 
their foes, hewed down the foremost and scattered the 
rest, so that scarce one of the whole party escaped 
death or deadly wounds. 

Then at last Brian and the king met face to face, 
nor was either slow to answer the challenge of the 
other. They fought as great champions fight, and it 
was long doubtful which should prevail ; but the end 
of the combat was, that the king of Greece fell by the 
overpowering valour of Brian, the son of Turenn. 

After this victory, the three brothers rested in the 
palace till they had regained their strength, and healed 
up their wounds by means of the apples and the pig's 
skin; and at the end of three days and three nights 
they found themselves able to undertake the next 



So, after holding council, they resolved to go to seek 
the spear of the king of Persia ; and Brian reminded 
his brothers that now, as they had the apples and the 
skin to aid them, it would be all the easier to get 
the spear, as well as the rest of the fine. 

Leaving now the shores of Greece with all its blue 
streams, they went on board the canoe, which, at 


Brian's command, flew across the wide seas ; and soon 
they made land near the palace of Pezar, king oL 
Persia. And seeing how they had fared so well in 
their last undertaking, they resolved to put on the 
guise of poets this time also. 

And so they put the poet's tie on their hair, and, 
passing through the outer gate, they knocked at the 
door of the palace. The door-keeper asked who they 
were, and from what country they had come. 

" We are poets from Erin," answered Brian ; " and 
we have brought a poem for the king." 

So they were admitted and brought to the presence 
of the king, who seated them among the nobles of his 
household ; and they joined in the drinking and the 
feasting and the revelry. 

The king's poets now arose, and chanted their 
songs for the king and his guests. And when the 
applause had ceased, Brian, speaking softly, said to 
his brothers 

" Arise, now, and chant a poem for the king." 

But they answered, " Ask us not to do that which 
we are unable to do ; but if you wish us to exercise 
the art we have learned from our youth, we shall do 
^o, namely, the art of fighting and overcoming our 

"That would be an unusual way of reciting 
poetry," said Brian ; ' but I have a poem for the king, 
and I shall now chant it for him." 

So saying, he stood up; and when there was 
silence, he recited this poem 


In royal state may Pezar ever reign, 
Like some vast yew tree, monarch of the plain ; 
May Pezar's mystic javelin, long and bright, 
Bring slaughter to his foes in every fight ! 

When Pezar fights and shakes his dreadful spear, 
Whole armies fly and heroes quake with fear : 
What shielded foe, what champion can withstand, 
The blazing spear in mighty Pezar's hand ! 

" Your poem is a good one," said the king ; " but 
one thing in it I do not understand, namely, why you 
make mention of my spear." 

"Because," answered Brian, "I wish to get that 
spear as a reward for my poem." 

"That is a very foolish request," said the king, 
" for no man ever escaped punishment who asked me 
for my spear. -And as to your poetry, the highest 
reward I could now bestow on you, and the greatest 
favour these nobles could obtain for you, is that I 
should spare your life." 

Thereupon Brian and his brothers started up in 
great wrath and drew their swords, and the king and 
his chiefs drew their swords in like manner ; and they 
fought a deadly fight. But Brian at last, drawing 
forth one of his apples, and taking sure aim, cast it at 
the king and struck him on the forehead ; so that 
Pezar fell, pierced through the brain. 

After this Brian fought on more fiercely than 
before, dealing destruction everywhere around him; 
but when the chiefs saw that their king had fallen, 
they lost heart and fled through the doors, till at 


length none remained in the banquet hall but the 
three sons of Turenn. 

Then they went to the room where the spear was 
kept ; and they found it with its head down deep in 
a great caldron of water, which hissed and bubbled 
round it. And Brian, seizing it boldly in his hand, 
drew it forth ; after which the three brothers left the 
palace and went to their canoe. 



RESTING now for some days from their toil, they 
resolved to seek the steeds and chariot of the king 
of Sigar; for this was the next part of the Ildana's 
eric-fine. So they commanded the canoe, and the 
canoe, obedient to their behest, glided swiftly and 
smoothly over the green waves till they landed in 
Sigar. Brian bore the great, heavy, venomed spear 
in his hand; and the three brothers were of good 
heart, seeing how they had succeeded in their last 
quest, and that they had now three parts of the fine. 

"In what shape think you we should go to this 
court ? " said Brian. 

" How should we go," answered the others, " but in 
our own shapes, namely, as three hostile champions, 


who have come to get the chariot and steeds, either 
by force or by good will ? " 

" That is not what seems best to me," said Brian. 
"My counsel is, that we go as soldiers from Erin, 
willing to serve for pay ; and should the king take us 
into his service, it is likely we shall find out where 
the chariot and steeds are kept." 

His brothers having agreed to this, the three set 
out for the palace. 

It happened that' the king was holding a fair- 
meeting on the broad, level green before the palace ; 
and when the three warriors came near, the people 
made way for them. They bowed low to the king ; 
and he asked them who they were, and from what 
part of the world they had come. 

"We are valiant soldiers from Erin," they answered, 
" seeking for service and pay among the great kings of 
the world." 

"Do you wish to enter my service ? " asked the 
king : and they answered, " Yes." So they mad^ a 
covenant with each other the king to place them in 
a post of honour and trust, and they to serve him 
faithfully, and to name their own reward. Where- 
upon the brothers entered the ranks of the king's 

They remained in the palace for a month and a 
fortnight, looking round and carefully noting every- 
thing ; but they saw nothing of the chariot and steeds. 
At the end of that time Brian said to his brothers 

"It fares ill with us here, my brothers; for we 


know nothing of the chariot and steeds at this hour, 
more than when we first came hither." 

The others said this was quite true, and asked if 
he meant to do anything in the matter. 

" This is what I think we should do," answered 
Brian. " Let us put on our travelling array, and take 
our arms of valour in our hands ; and in this fashion 
let us go before the king, and tell him that unless he 
shows us the chariot and steeds, we shall leave his 

This they did without delay ; and when they had 
come before the king, he asked them why they came 
to his presence so armed and in travelling gear. 

"We will tell thee of that, king," answered 
Brian. " We are valiant soldiers from Erin, and into 
whatsoever lands we have travelled, we have been 
trusted with the secret counsels of the kings who 
have taken us into their service; and we have been 
made the guardians of their rarest jewels and of all 
their gifted arms of victory. But as to thee, O king, 
thou hast not so treated us since we came hither ; for 
thou hast a chariot and two steeds, which exceed all 
the chariots and steeds in the world, and yet we have 
never seen them." 

" A small thing it is that has caused you to pre- 
pare for departure," said the king; "and there is, 
moreover, no need that you should leave my service ; 
for I would have shown you those steeds the day you 
came, had I only known that you wished it. But ye 
shall see them now; for I have never had in my 


service soldiers from a distant land, in whom I and 
my people have placed greater trust than we have 
placed in you." 

He then sent for the steeds, and had them yoked to 
the chariot those steeds that were as fleet as the clear, 
cold wind of March, and which travelled with equal 
speed on land and on sea. 

Brian, viewing them narrowly, said aloud, "Hear 
me, king of Sicily. We have served thee faithfully 
up to this time ; and now we wish to name our own 
pay, according to the covenant thou hast made with 
us. The guerdon we demand is yonder chariot and 
steeds ; these we mean to have, and we shall ask for 
nothing more." 

But the k^ng, in great wrath, said, " Foolish and 
luckless men ! Ye shall certainly die because you have 
dared to ask for my steeds ! " 

And the king and his warriors drew their swords, 
and rushed towards the sons of Turenn to seize them. 

They, on the other hand, were not taken unaware ; 
and a sore fight began. And Brian, watching his 
opportunity, sprang with a sudden bound into the 
chariot, and, dashing the charioteer to the ground, he 
seized the reins in his left hand; then, raising the 
yenomed spear of Pezar in his right, he smote the 
king with its fiery point in the breast, so that he fell 
dead. And the three brothers dealt red slaughter 
among the king's guards, till those who were not slain 
scattered and fled in all directions. So they fared in 
this undertaking. 




AFTER resting till their wounds were healed, Ur and 
Urcar asked where they should go next. 

" We shall go," said Brian, " to Asal, the king of 
the Golden Pillars, to ask him for bjs seven pigs; for 
this is the next part of the Ildana's eric-fine." 

So they set out; and the canoe brought them 
straightway to the land of the Golden Pillars, without 
delay and without mishap. As they drew nigh to 
the harbour, they saw the shore lined with men all 
armed. For the fame of the deeds of these great 
champions had begun to be noised through many 
lands ; how they had been forced to leave Erin by the 
hard sentence of the Ildana ; and how they were 
seeking and bearing away the most precious and 
gifted jewels of the world to pay the fine. Wherefore 
the king of the Golden Pillars had armed his people, 
and had sent them to guard the harbours. 

The king himself came down to the beach to meet 
them. As soon as they had come within speaking 
distance, he bade them stay their course ; and then he 
asked them, in an angry and chiding tone, if they were 
the three champions from Erin, who had overcome 
and slain so many kings. 

Brian answered, " Be not displeased with us, O 


king for in all this matter we are not to blame. The 
liaana nas demanded a fine which we perforce must 
pay ; for we have promised, and the Dedannans are 
our guarantee. If the kings to whom he sent us had 
given us peaceably the precious things we demanded, 
we would gladly have departed in peace ; but as they 
did not, we fought against them, unwillingly indeed 
and overthrew them ; for no one has as yet been able 
to withstand us." 

" Tell me now," said the king, " what has brought 
you to my country ? " 

"We have come for thy seven pigs," answered 
Brian ; " for they are a part of the fine." 

"And in what manner do you think ye shall get 
them ? " asked the king. 

Brian answered, "Thou hast heard, O king, how 
the Ildana has brought us to these straits, and we 
must pay him the fine, every jot, or else we shall die 
at the hands of our people. Thou, perchance, wilt have 
pity on our hardships, and give us these pigs in token 
of kindness and friendship, and if so we shall be 
thankful ; but if not, then we will fight for them, and 
either bring ihem away by force, after slaying thee 
and thy people or fall ourselves in the attempt." 

Hearing this, the king and his people went into 
council ; and after debating the matter at full length, 
they thought it best to give the pigs peaceably, seeing 
that no king, however sc^rerful. had as yet been able 
to withstand the sons of Turenn. 

The three champions wondered greatly when this 


was told to them; for in no other country had they 
been able to get any part of the fine without battle 
and hardship, and without leaving much of their blood 
behind them. So they were now veiy glad; and 
thanked Asal and his people. 

The king then brought them to his palace, and 
gave them a kind welcome; and they were supplied 
with food and drink to their hearts' desire, and slept 
on soft, downy beds. So they rested after all their 
weary journeys and toils. 

When they arose next morning, they were brought 
to the king's presence, and the pigs were given to 
them; and Brian addressed the king in these words 

The prizes we've brought to this land, 
We have won them in conflict and blood ; 

But the gift we have sought at thy hand, 
That gift thou hast freely bestowed. 

The red spear rewarded our deeds, 

When Pezar the mighty we slew ; 
And the fight for the chariot and steeda, 

Ah, long shall the Sigarites me ! 

Great Asal ! in happier days, 

When our deeds bring us glory and ff me. 

Green Erin shall echo thy praise, 

And her poets shall honour thy name! 




: ' WHITHER do you go next, ye sons of Turenn ?" asked 

"We go," answered Brian, "to Iroda, for Failinis, 
the king's hound-whelp," 

" Then grant me this boon," said the king, " namely, 
that ye let me go with you to Iroda. For my daughter 
is the king's wife; and I will try to prevail on him 
that he give you the hound-whelp freely and without 

This they agreed to. But the king wished that 
they should go in his own ship ; so it was got ready, 
and they went on board with all their wealth; and 
it is not told how they fared till they reached the 
borders of Iroda. The shores were covered with fierce, 
armed men, who were there by orders of the king 
to guard the harbour; and these men shouted at the 
crew, warning them to come no farther; for they 
knew the sons of Turenn, and well they knew what 
they came for. 

Asal then requested the three champions to remain 
where they were for a time, while he went on shore 
to talk with his son-in-law. Accordingly he landed, 
and went to the king, who, after he had welcomed 
him, asked what had brought the sons of Turenn to 
his country. 


" They have come for your hound-whelp," answered 

And the king of Iroda said, "It was an evil 
counsel you followed, when you came with these 
men to my shores; for to no three champions in 
the world have the gods given such strength or such 
good luck as that they can get my hound-whelp, 
either by force or by my own free will" 

"It will be unwise to refuse them," replied AsaL 
' They have overpowered and slain many great kings ; 
for they have gifted arms that no warrior, however 
powerful, can withstand; and behold, I have come 
hither to tell you what manner of men these are, that 
you might be advised by me, and give them your 
hound-whelp in peace." 

So he pressed him earnestly ; but his words were 
only thrown away on the king of Iroda, who spoke 
scornfully of the sons of Turenn, and refused Asal's 
request with wrathful words. 

Asal, much troubled at this, went and told the 
sons of Turenn how matters stood. And they, having 
without delay put on their battle-dress, and taken 
their arms in their hands, challenged the king of 
Iroda and his people. Then began a very fierce and 
bloody battle ; for though nothing could stand before" 
the sons of Turenn, yet the warriors of Iroda were 
many and very brave. So they fought till the two 
younger brothers became separated from Brian, and 
he was quite surrounded. But as he wielded the 
dreadful spear of Pezar, with its blazing, fiery point, 


his enemies fell back dismayed, and the ranks were 
broken before him, so that those who crossed his path 
stood in a gap of danger. 

At length he espied the king of Iroda, where he 
fought hedged round by spears ; and he rushed through 
the thick of the battle straight towards him, striking 
down spears and swords and men as he went. And 
now these two valiant warriors fought hand to 
hand a stout and watchful and fierce battle for the 
others fell back by the king's command; and it was 
long before any advantage was gained on either side. 
But : though to those who looked on, Brian seemed 
the more wrathful of the two, yet he held back his 
hand, so as not to slay his foe ; and this it was, indeed, 
that prolonged the combat, for he sought to tire out 
the king. At length, watching his opportunity, Brian 
closed suddenly, and, seizing the king in his strong 
arms, he lifted him clean off the ground, and bore him 
to where Asal stood. Then, setting him down, he 

" Behold thy son-in-law ; it would have been 
easier to kill him three times over than to bring him 
to thee once ! " 

When the people saw their king a prisoner, they 
ceased fighting ; and the end of all was that peace 
was made, and the hound-whelp was given over to 
the sons of Turenn. Then they took their leave, and 
left the shores of Iroda in friendship with the king 
and with Asal his father-in-law. 




Now we shall speak of Luga of the Long Arms. It 
was revealed to him that the sons of Turenn had 
obtained all those parts of the fine which he wanted foi 
the battle of Moytura ; u but that they had not yet got 
the cooking-spit, or given the three shouts on Mid- 
kena's Hill. So he sent after them a druidical spell, 
which, falling on them soon after they had left Iroda, 
caused them to forget the remaining part of the fine, 
and filled them with a longing desire to return to 
their native home. Accordingly they went on board 
their canoe, bringing with them every part of the fine 
they had gotten already ; and the canoe glided swiftly 
over the waves to Erin. 

At this time Luga was with the king at a fair- 
meeting on the plain before Tara; and it was made 
known to him secretly that the sons of Turenn had 
landed at Bruga of the Boyne. He left the assembly 
anon, telling no one; and he went direct to Caher- 
Crofinn* at Tara, and, closing the gates and doors 
after him, he put on his battle array, namely, the 
smooth Greek armour of Mannanan Mac Lir, and the 
enchanted mantle of the daughter of Flidas. 

* Cater-Crofinn, otherwise called Rath-ree, the principal for. 
tress at Tara, the remains of which are still to be seen. 


Soon after, the sons of Turenn were seen approach- 
ing ; and as they came forward, the multitude nocked 
out to meet them, gazing with wonder at the many 
marvellous things they had brought. When the three 
champions had come to the royal tent, they were 
joyfully welcomed by the king and by the Dedannans 
in general ; and then the king spoke kindly to them, 
and asked if they had brought the eric-fine. 

"We have obtained it after much hardship and 
danger," they replied; "and now we wish to know 
where Luga is, that we may hand it over to him." 

The king told them that Luga was at the as- 
sembly ; but when they sent to search for him, he was 
nowhere to be found. 

" I can tell where he is," said Brian. " It has been 
made known to him that we have arrived in Erin, 
bringing with us gifted arms that none can withstand; 
and he has gone to one of the strongholds of Tara, to 
avoid us, fearing we might use these venomed weapons 
against himself." 

Messengers were then sent to Luga to tell him 
that the sons of Turenn had arrived, and to ask him 
to come forth to the meeting, that they might give 
him the fine. 

But he answered, " I will not come to the meeting 
yet ; but go ye back, and tell the sons of Turenn to 
give the fine to the king for me." 

The messengers returned with this answer; and 
the sons of Turenn gave to the king for Luga all the 
wonderful things they had brought, keeping, however 


their own arms ; after which the whole company went 
into the palace. 

When Luga was told how matters stood, he came 
to where the king and all the others were; and the 
king gave him the fine. Then Luga, looking narrowly 
at everything that had been given up to him, said 

" Here, indeed, is an eric enough to pay for any 
one that ever yet was slain, or that shall be slain 
to the end of time. But yet there is one kind of fine 
that must be paid to the last farthing, namely, an 
eric-fine; for of this it is not lawful to hold back 
even the smallest part. And moreover, O king, thou 
and the Dedannans whom I see here present, are 
guarantees for the full payment of my eric-fine. Now 
I see here the three apples, and the skin of the pig, 
and the fiery-headed spear, and the chariot and 
steeds, and the seven pigs, and the hound-whelp; 
but where, ye sons of Turenn, is the cooking-spit 
of the women of Fincara ? And I have not heard 
that ye have given the three shouts on Midkena's 

On hearing this, the sons of Turenn fell into a 
faintness like the faintness before death. And when 
they had recovered they answered not one word, but 
left the assembly and went to their father's house. 
To him and their sister Ethnea they told all that 
had befallen them ; and how they should set out on 
another quest, as they had forgotten part of the eric- 
fine through the spells of Luga. 

At this Turenn was overwhelmed with grief; and 


Ethnea wept in great fear and sorrow. And so they 
passed that night. Next day, they went down to the 
shore, and their father and sister went with them 
to their ship, and bade them farewell. 



THEN they went on board their ship for they> had 
Mannanan's canoe no longer and they sailed forth 
on the green billowy sea to search for the Island of 
Fincara. For a whole quarter of a year they wan- 
dered hither and thither over the wide ocean, landing 
on many shores and inquiring of all they met; yet 
they were not able to get the least tidings of the 

At last, they came across one very old man, who 
told them that he had heard of the Island of Fincara 
in the days of his youth ; and that it lay not on the 
surface, but down deep in the waters, for it was sunk 
beneath the waves by a spell in times long past. 18 

Then Brian put on his water-dress, with his helmet 
of transparent crystal on his head, and, telling his 
brothers to await his return, he leaped over the side 
of the ship, and sank at once out of sight. He walked 
about for a fortnight down in the green salt sea, 


seeking for the Island of Fincara; and at last he 
found it. 

There were many houses on the island ; but one he 
saw larger and grander than . the rest. To this he 
straightway bent his steps, and found it open. On 
entering, he saw in one large room a great number of 
beautiful ladies, busily employed at all sorts of em- 
broidery and needlework; and in their midst was a 
long, bright cooking-spit lying on a table. 

Without speaking a word, he walked straight to 
the table, and, seizing the spit in one hand, he turned 
round and walked towards the door. The women 
neither spoke nor moved, but each had her eyes fixed 
on him from the moment he entered, admiring his 
manly form, his beauty, and his fearlessness ; but 
when they saw him about to walk off with the spit, 
they all burst out laughing; and one, who seemed 
chief among them, said 

"Thou hast attempted a bold deed, son of 
Turenn ! Know that there are thrice fifty warlike 
women here, and that the weakest among us would 
be able of herself to prevent thee taking this cooking- 
spit, even if thy two brothers were here to help thee. 
But thou art a brave and courageous champion, else 
thou wouldst not have attempted, unaided, to take it 
by force, knowing the danger. And for thy boldness 
and valour, and for the comeliness of thy person, we 
will let thee take this one, for we have many others 

So Brian, after thanking them, brought away the 
spit joyfully, and sought his ship. 


Ur and Urcar waited for Brian in the same spot 
the whole time, and when he came not, they began to 
fear that he would return no more. With these 
thoughts they were at last about to leave the place, 
when they saw the glitter of his crystal helmet down 
deep in the water, and immediately after he came to 
the surface with the cooking-spit in his hand. They 
brought him on board, and now all felt very joyful and 
courageous of heart. 



THE three brothers next sailed away towards the 
north of Lochlann, and never abated speed till they 
moored their vessel near the Hill of Midkena, which 
rose smooth and green over the sea-shore. When 
Midkena saw them approaching, he knew them at 
once, and, coming towards them armed for battle, he 
addressed them aloud 

" You it was that slew Kian, my friend and pupil ; 
and now come forth and fight, for you shall not leave 
these shores till you answer for his death." 

Brian, in no degree daunted by the fierce look and 
threatening speech of Midkena, sprang ashore, and 
the two heroes attacked each other with great fury. 


When the three sons of Midkena heard the clash of 
arms, they came forth, and, seeing how matters stood, 
they rushed down to aid their father ; but just as they 
arrived at the shore, Midkena fell dead, cloven through 
helmet and head by the heavy sword of Brian. 

And now a fight began, three on each side ; and if 
men were afar off, even in the land of Hisberna, in 
the east of the world, they would willingly come the 
whole way to see this battle, so fierce and haughty 
were the minds of those mighty champions, so skilful 
and active were they in the use of their weapons, so 
numerous and heavy were their blows, and so long did 
they continue to fight without either party giving 
way. The three sons of Turenn were at last dread- 
fully wounded wounded almost to death. But neither 
fear nor weakness did this cause them, for their valour 
and their fury arose all the more for their wounds, 
and with one mighty onset they drove their spears 
through the bodies of their foes; and the sons of 
Midkena fell before them into the long sleep of death. 

But now that the fight was ended, and the battle- 
fury of the victors had passed off now it was that they 
began to feel the effects of their wounds. They threw 
themselves full length on the blood-stained sward, and 
long they remained without moving or speaking a 
word, as if they were dead ; and a heavy curtain of 
darkness fell over their eyes. 

At last Brian, raising his head, spoke to his 
brothers to know if they lived, and when they 
answered him feebly, he said 


" My dear brothers, let us now arise and give the 
three shouts on the hill while there is time, for I feel 
the signs of death." 

But they were not able to rise. 

Then Brian, gathering all his remaining strength, 
stood up and lifted one with each hand, while his own 
blood flowed plentifully ; and then they raised three 
feeble shouts on Midkena's Hill. 



MAKING no further delay, he led them to their ship, 
and they set sail for Erin. While they were yet 
far off, Brian, gazing over the sea towards the west, 
suddenly cried out 

"Lo, I see Ben Edar* yonder, rising over the 
waters ; and I see also Dun Turenn farther towards 
the north."' 

And Ur answered from where he reclined with 
Urcar on the deck, " If we could but get one sight of 
Ben Edar methinks we should regain our health and 
strength ; and as thou lovest us, and as thou lovest 

* Ben Edar, now Howth Hill, near Dublin. Dun Tnrenn, the 
fortress of their father Turenn, 


thy own renown, my brother, come and raise our 
heads and rest them on thy breast, that we may see 
Erin once more. After that, we shall welcome either 
life or death." 


brother, torch of valour, strong of hand, 

Come, place our weary heads upon thy breast; 

And let ns look upon our native land, 
Before we sink to everlasting rest ! 


Beloved sons of Turenn, woe is me ! 

My wounds are deep, my day of strength is past ; 
Yet not for this I grieve, but that I see 

Your lives, my noble brothers, ebbing fast ! 


Would we could give our lives to purchase thine 5 
Ah, gladly would we die to ease thy pain ! 

For art thou not the pride of Turenn's line, 
The noblest champion of green Erin's plain ? 


That mighty Dannan' healer, Dianket;* 
Or Midac, who excelled his sire in skill; 

The maiden-leech, Armedda, mightier yet, 

Who knew the herbs to cure, the herbs to kill: 

Oh, were they here ; or had we now at hand 
Those gifted apples from the distant East ; 

Then might we hope to reach our native land, 
And live again in joy and peace and rest ! 

* Dianket, the great Dedannan physician. His son Midao and 
his daughter Armedda were still more skilful than their father. (See 
note 1 at the end.) 



Brother, methinks could we but see once more 
Ben Edar's slopes, or Bregia's * dewy plain, 

Tailltenn,+ or Brnga's J mystic mansion hoar, 

Our blood would course in health and strength again. 

Or let us once behold our father's home, 

Or winding Liffey down by Ahaclee, 
Old Erevan's hill,H or Tara's ^f regal dome ; 

Then welcome death or life, whiche'er may be ! 

So Brian raised their heads and rested them on his 
breast, and they gazed on the rocky cliffs and green 
slopes of Ben Edar while the ship wafted slowly 
towards land. 

Soon after this they landed on the north side of 
Ben Edar, from which they made their way slowly 
to Dun Turenn. And when they had reached the 
green in front of the house, Brian cried out 

" Father, dear father, come forth to thy children ! " 

Turenn came forth and saw his sons all wounded 
and pale and feeble. 

* Bregia, the plain lying between the Liffey and the Boyne. 

t Tailltenn, now Teltown, on the Blackwater, about midway be- 
tween Navan and Kells, in Meath. Here annual meetings were held 
from the most ancient times, on the first of August, and for some 
days before and after, at which games were celebrated, like the 
Olympic games of Greece. 

J Bruga on the Boyne, where Angus or Mac Indoc, the great 
Dedannan enchanter, had his "mystic mansion hoar." (See note 1 at 
the end.) 

Ahaclee, the old name of Dublin. 

|| Frevan, now the hill of Frewen, rising over Lough Owel, near 
Mullingar, where the ancient Irish kings had one of their palaces. 
H Tara, in Meath, the chief seat of the Irish kings. 


And Brian said, " Go, beloved father go quick to 
Tara, and quickly return. Bring this cooking-spit 
to Luga, and tell him that we have given the three 
shouts on Midkena's Hill. Say that we have now paid 
the full eric-fine, and bring back from him the apples 
of the Garden of Hisberna, to heal our wounds, else 
we die." 


Father, our wounds are deadly ; nought can save 
Thy children's lives but Luga's friendly hand : 

Go, seek him, father fare thee fast and crave 
The healing apples from Hisberna's land ! 


In vain, my sons, ye seek to fly your doom ; 

The stern Ildana's mind too well I know : 
Alas ! far liefer would he see your tomb, 

Than all the treasures all this world could showl 


But he is just ; and though his sire we slew, 
Have we not paid full eric for the deed ? 

The great Ildana is our kinsman too, 
And will relent in this our time of need. 

Then go, my father, thou art swift and strong ; 

Speed like the wind why linger here to mourn? 
Go straight to Luga's home, nor tarry long; 

Or, father, we shall die ere thou return ! 

Turenn set out and travelled like the wind till he 
reached Tara, where he found Luga. 

He gave him the cooking-spit, and said, "Behold, 
my three sons have now paid thee the full eric-fine, 
for they have given the three shouts on Midkena's 
Hill. But they are wounded even unto death ; and 


now give me, I pray thee, the apples from the Garden 
of Hisberna, to cure them, else they die." 

But Luga refused, and turned away from Turenn. 

Turenn hastened back to his sons with a sorrowful 
heart, and told them that he had failed to get the 

Then Brian said, " Take me with thee to Tara. I 
will see him, and perchance he may have pity on us, 
and give us the apples." 

And it was done so. But when Brian begged for 
the apples, Luga said 

" I will not give them to thee. If thou shouldst 
offer me the full of the whole earth of gold, I would 
not give them to thee. Thou and thy brothers com- 
mitted a wicked and pitiless deed when you slew my 
father. For that deed you must suffer, and with 
nothing short of your death shall I be content." 

For the blood that you spilled, 
For the hero you killed 
The deed is avenged, and your doom is fulfilled ! 

Brian turned away and went back to his brothers, 
and, lying down between them, his life departed ; and 
his brothers died at the same moment. 

Then their father and their sister stood hand in 
hand over their bodies, lamenting. And Turenn spoke 
this lay 

Oh, pulseless is my heart this wofnl hour, 
My strength is gone, my joy for ever fled ; 

Three noble champions, Erin's pride and power, 
My three fair youths, my children, cold and dead ! 


Mild Ur, the fair-haired ; Urcar, straight and tall j 
The kinsrs of Banba * worthy both to be ; 

And Brian, bravest, noblest, best of all, 

Who conquered many lands beyond the sea : 

Ix>, I am Turenn, your unhappy sire, 

Mourning with feeble voice above your grave ; 

No life, no wealth, no honours I desire ; 
A place beside my sons is all I crave ! 

After this Turenn and Ethnea fell on the bodies 
>>f the three young heroes and died. 

And they were all buried in one grave. 

This is the story of the Fate of the Children of 

* Banba, one of the ancient names of Ireland. 





IN the days of old a good king ruled over Human,* 
whose name was Marid Mac Carido. He had two 
sons, Ecca and Rib. Ecca was restless and unruly, 
and in many ways displeased the king; and he told 
his brother Rib that he had made up his mind to 
leave his home, and win lands for himself in some far 
off part of the country. Rib tried hard to dissuade 
him ; but though this delayed his departure for a 
while, he was none the less bent on going. 

At last Ecca, being wrought upon by his step- 
mother Ebliu (from whom Slieve Eblinne f was 
afterwards named), did a grievous wrong to his 
father, and fled from Muman with all his people ; 
and his brother Rib and his stepmother Ebliu went 
with him. Ten hundred men they were in all, 

* Human, i.e. Monster. 

+ Siieve Eblinne, now Slieve Eelim or Slieve Phelim, in Tip- 
perary, sometimes called the Twelve Hills of Evlinn. " Eblinne " is 
the genitive of " Ebliu." 


besides women and children; and they turned their 
faces towards the north. 

After they had travelled for some time, their 
druids 8 told them that it was not fated for them to 
settle in the same place ; and accordingly, when they 
had come to the Pass of the two Pillar Stones, they 

Rib and his people turned to the west, and they 
journeyed till they came to the plain of Arbthenn. 
And there the water of a fountain burst forth over the 
land, and drowned them all ; and a great lake was 
formed, which to this day is called the Lake of Rib.* 

Ecca continued his journey northwards ; and he 
and his people fared slowly on till they came near 
to Brugaf of the Boyne, the palace of Mac Indoc, 
where they were fain to rest. No sooner had they 
halted, than a tall man came forth from the palace, 
namely, Angus Mac Indoc of the Bruga, son of the 
Dagda, and commanded them to leave the place 
without delay. But they, being spent with the toil 
of travel, heeded not his words, and, pitching their 
tents, they rested on the plain before the palace. 
Whereupon Angus, being wroth that his commands 
were unheeded, killed all their horses that night. 

Next day, he came forth again, and he said to 
them, " Your horses I slew last night ; and now, unless 
ye depart from this place, I will slay your people 

* Now Lough Ree, on the Shannon. 

* See note, page 62 ; see also note 1 at the end of the book. 


And Ecca said to him, " Much evil hast thou 
done to us already, for thou hast killed all our horses. 
And now we cannot go, even though we desire it, for 
without horses we cannot travel." 

Then Angus brought to them a very large horse 
in full harness, and they put all their goods on him. 
And when they were about to go, he said to them 

" Beware that ye keep this great steed walking 
continually ; not even a moment's rest shall ye give 
him, otherwise he will certainly be the cause of your 
death." 14 

After this they set out again, on a Sunday in the 
mid-month of autumn, and travelled on till they 
reached the Plain of the Grey Copse,* where they 
intended to abide. They gathered then round the 
great steed to take their luggage oft' him, and each was 
busy seeing after his own property, so that they for- 
got to keep the horse moving. And the moment he 
stood still, a magic well sprang up beneath his feet. u 

Now Ecca, when he saw the well spring up, was 
troubled, remembering Angus's warning. And he 
caused a house to be built round it, and near it he 
built his palace, for the better security. And he chose 
a woman to take care of the well, charging her strictly 
to keep the door locked, except when the people of the 
palace came for water. 

After that the King of Ulad.t that is to say, Muri- 

* The Plain of the Grey Copse, according to the legend, was the 
name of the plain now covered by Lough Neagh. 
t Ulad, i.e. Ulster. 


dach, the son of Fiaca Findamnas (who was grandson of 
Conal Carna of the Red Branch 15 ) came against Ecca 
to drive him forth from Ulad. But Ecca made a stout 
tight, so that he won the lordship of half of Ulad from 
Muridach. And after that his people settled down on 
the Plain of the Grey Copse. 

Now Ecca had two daughters, Ariu and Liban, 
of whom Ariu was the wife of Curnan the Simpleton. 
And Curnan went about among the people, foretelling 
that a lake would flow over them from the well, and 
urging them earnestly to make ready their boats . 

Come forth, come forth, ye valiant men ; build boats, and build ye 

fast ! 

I see the water surging out, a torrent deep and vast ; 
I see our chief and all his host o'erwhelmed beneath the wave ; 
And Ariu, too, my best beloved, alas ! I cannot save. 
But Liban east and west shall swim 
Long ages on the ocean's rim, 
By mystic shores and islets dim, 

And down in the deep sea cave ! 

And he ceased not to warn all he met, repeating 
this verse continually ; but the people gave no heed to 
the words of the Simpleton. 

Now the woman who had charge of the well, on a 
certain occasion forgot to close the door, so that the 
spell was free to work evil And immediately the 
water burst forth over the plain, and formed a great 
lake, namely the Lake of the Copse. And Ecca and 
all his family and all his folk were drowned, save only 
his daughter Liban, and Conang, and Curnan the 
Simpleton. And they buried Ariu, and raised & 
mound over her, which is called from her Carn-Arenn. 


Of Conang nothing more is told. But as to 
Curnan, he died of grief after his wife Ariu ; and he 
was buried in a mound, which is called Carn-Curnan 
to this day in memory of him. 

And thus the great Lake of the Copse was formed, 
which is now called Lough Necca,* in memory of 
Ecca, the son of Marid. And it was the overflow qf 
this lake which, more than all other causes, scattered 
the Ultonians over Erin. 

Now as to Liban. She also was swept away like 
the others ; but she was not drowned. She lived for 
a whole year with her lap-dog, in her chamber beneath 
the lake, and God protected her from the water. At 
the end of the year she was weary; and when she 
saw the speckled salmon swimming and playing all 
round her, she prayed and said 

"O my Lord, I wish I were a salmon, that I 
might swim with the others through the clear green 
sea ! " 

And at the words she took the shape of a salmon, 
except her face and breast, which did not change. 
And her lap-dog was changed to an otter, and attended, 
her afterwards whithersoever she went, as long as she 
lived in the sea. 

And so she remained swimming about from sea to 
sea for three hundred years ; that is to say, from the 
time of Ecca, the son of Marid, to the time of Comgall 
of Bangor. 16 

Now on one occasion, Comgall sent Beoc, the son 

* Lough Necca, now Lough Neagh. 


of Indli, from Bangor to Rome, to talk with Gregory * 
concerning some matters of order and rule. And when 
Beoc's curragh 17 was sailing over the sea, he and his 
crew heard sweet singing in the waters beneath them, 
as it were the chanting of angela 

And Beoc, having listened for a while, looked down 
into the water, and asked what the chant was for, and 
who it was that sang. 

And Liban answered, " I am Liban, the daughter 
of Ecca, son of Marid ; and it is I who sang the chant 
thou hast heard." 

" Why art thou here ? " asked Beoc. 

And she replied, " Lo, I have lived for three hun- 
dred years beneath the sea ; and I have come hither to 
fix a day and a place of meeting with thee. I shall 
now go westward ; and I beseech thee, for the sake 
of the holy men of Dalaradia,f to come to Inver 
Ollarba J to meet me, on this same day at the end of 
a year. Say also to Comgall and to the other holy 
men of Bangor, all that I say to thee. Come with 
thy boats and thy fishing-nets, and thou shalt take 
me from the waters in which I have lived." 

" I shall not grant thee the boon thou askest," said 
Beoc, " unless thou give me a reward." 

" What reward dost thou seek ? " asked Liban. 

* Gregory, i.e. Pope Gregory. 

f Dalaradia, the old name of a territory which included the 
southern half of the county Antrim and a part of Down. 

J Inver Ollarba, i.e. the inver, or mouth of the river Ollarba, 
which was the ancient name of the Lame Water, in Antrim. 


" That thou be buried in one grave with me in my 
own monastery," answered Beoc. 

" That shall be granted to thee," said Liban. 

Beoc then went on his way to Rome. And when 
he had returned, he related to Comgall and to the 
other saints of the monastery at Bangor, the story of 
the mermaid. And now the end of the year was nigh. 

Then they made ready their nets, and on the day 
appointed they went in their boats to Inver Ollarba, a 
goodly company of the saints of Erin. And Liban was 
caught in the net of Fergus of Miluc :* and her head 
and shoulders were those of a maiden, but she had the 
body of a fish. 

Now the boat in which she was brought to land 
was kept half full of sea water, in which she remained 
swimming about. And many came to see her ; and all 
were filled with wonder when they saw her strange 
shape and heard her story. 

Among the rest came the chief of the tribe of 
Hua-Conang, wearing a purple cloak; and she kept 
gazing at him earnestly. The young chief, seeing this, 
said to her 

" Dost thou wish to have this cloak ? If so, I will 
give it to thee willingly." 

But she answered, " Not so : I desire not thy 
cloak. But it brings to my mind my father Ecca; 

* Miluc, or Meelick, the name of an ancient ecclesiastical estab- 
lishment in the county Antrim. See " Ecclesiastical Antiquities of 
Down, Connor, and Dromore " (page 3), by the Eev. William Reeves, 
M.B., M.R.I.A. 


for on the day he was drowned, he wore a cloak of 
purple like thine. But may good luck be on thee for 
thy gentleness, and on him who shall come after thee 
in thy place ; and in every assembly where thy suc- 
cessor sits, may he be known to all without inquiry." 

After that there came up a large-bodied, dark- 
visaged, fierce hero, and killed her lap-dog. Where- 
upon she was grieved; and she told him that the 
heroism of himself and his tribe should be stained 
by the baseness of their minds, and that they should 
not be able to defend themselves against injuries till 
they should do penance, by fasting, for her sake. 

Then the warrior repented what he had done, and 
humbled himself before her. 

And now there arose a contention about her, as to 
whom she should belong. Comgall said she was his, 
forasmuch as she was caught in his territory. But 
Fergus urged that she belonged to him by right, as it 
was in his net she was taken. And Beoc said he had 
the best right of all to her, on account of the promise 
she had made to him. 

And as no one could settle the dispute, these three 
saints fasted and prayed that God would give a judg- 
ment between them, to show who should own Liban. 

And an angel said to one of the company, " Two 
wild oxen will come hither to-morrow from Carn-Arerm, 
that is to say, from the grave-mound of Liban's sister, 
Ariu. Yoke a chariot to them, and place the mermaid 
in it ; and into whatsoever territory they shall bring 
her, she shall remain with the owner thereof." 


The oxen came on the morrow, as the angel had 
foretold. And when they were yoked, and when Liban 
was placed in the chariot, they brought her straight- 
way to Beoc's church, namely to Tec-Da-Beoc. 

Then the saints gave her a choice either to die 
immediately after baptism, and go to heaven ; or to 
li ve on earth as long as she had lived in the sea, and 
then to go to heaven after these long ages. And the 
choice she took was to die immediately. Whereupon 
Comgall baptised her : and he gave her the name of 
Murgen, that is, " Sea-born," or Murgelt, that is " Mer- 

And she is counted among the holy virgins, and 
held in honour and reverence, as God ordained for her 
in heaven ; and wonders and miracles are performed 
through her means at Tec-Da-Beoc. 


CONNLA of the Golden' Hair was the son of Conn 
the Hundred-fighter. 18 One day as he stood with his 
father on the royal Hill of Usna,* he saw a lady a 
little way off, very beautiful, and dressed in strange 
attire. She approached the spot where he stood; 
and when she was near, he spoke to her, and asked 
who she was, and from wnat place she had come. 

The lady replied, "I have come from the Land 
o'f the Living 19 a land where there is neither death 
nor old age, nor any breach of law. The inhabitants 
of earth call us Aes-shee, 19 for we have our dwellings 
within large, pleasant, green hills. We pass our time 
very pleasantly in feasting and harmless amusements, 
never growing old; and we have no quarrels 01 

The king and his company marvelled very much ; 
for though they heard this conversation, no one saw 
the lady except Connla alone. 

" Who is this thou art talking to, my son ? " said 
the king. 

* Hill of Uena. (See note, page 37.) 


And anon she answered for the youth, " Connla 
is speaking with a lovely, noble-born young lady, 
who will never die, and who will never grow 
old. I love Connla of the Golden Hair, and I have 
come to bring him with me to Moy-mell, 19 the plain 
of never-ending pleasure. On the day that he comes 
with me he shall be made king ; and he shall reign 
for ever in Fairyland, without weeping and without 
sorrow. Come with me, O gentle Connla of tht 
ruddy cheek, the fair, freckled neck, and the golden 
hair! Come with me, beloved Connla, and thou 
shalt retain the comeliness and dignity of thy form, 
free from the wrinkles of old age, till the awful day 
of judgment ! " 

Thy flowing golden hair, thy comely face, 
Thy tall majestic form of peerless grace, 
That show thee sprung from Conn's exalted race. 

King Conn the Hundred-fighter, being much 
troubled, called then on his druid, 3 Coran, to put forth 
his power against the witchery of the banshee 19 

" O Coran of the mystic arts and of the mighty 
incantations, here is a contest such as I have never 
been engaged in since I was made king at Tara 
a contest with an invisible lady, who is beguiling 
my son to Fairyland by her baleful charms. Her 
cunning is beyond my skill, and I am not able to 
withstand her power ; and if thou, Coran, help not, my 
son will be taken away from me by the wiles and 
witchery of a woman from the fairy hills." 


Goran, ,the amid, then came forward, and began 
to chant against the voice of the lady. And his 
power was greater than hers for that time, so that 
she was forced to retire. 

As she was going away she tiiic\> an apple to 
Cormla, who straightway lost sight "of her ; and the 
king and his people no longer heard her voice. 

The king and the prince returned with their 
company to the palace ; and Connla remained for 
a whole month without tasting food or drink, except 
the apple. And though he ate of it each day, it 
was never lessened, but was as whole and perfect in 
the end as at the beginning. Moreover, when they 
offered him aught else to eat or drink, he refused 
it; for while he had his apple he did not deem 
any other food worthy to be tasted. And he began 
to be very moody and sorrowful, thinking of the 
lovely fairy maiden. 

At the end of the month, as Connla stood by 
his father's side among the nobles, on the Plain of 
Arcomin, he saw the same lady approaching him from 
the west. And when she had come near, she addressed 
him in this manner 

"A glorious seat, indeed, has Connla among 
wretched, short-lived mortals, awaiting the dreadful 
stroke of death ! But now, the ever-youthful people 
of Moy-mell, who never feel old age, and who fear 
not death, seeing thee day by day among thy friends, 
in the assemblies of thy Fatherland, love thee with 


a strange love ; and they will make thee king over 
them if thou wilt come with me." 

When the king heard the words of the lady, he 
commanded his people to call the druid again to him, 

" Bring my druid, Goran, to me ; for I see that 
the fairy lady has this day regained the power of her 

At this the lady said, " Valiant Conn, fighter 
of a hundred, the faith of the druids has come to 
little honour among the upright, mighty, numberless 
people of this land. When the righteous law shall be 
restored, it will seal up the lips of the false, black 
demon ; and his druids shall no longer have power to 
work their guileful spells." 

Now the king observed, and marvelled greatly, 
that whenever the lady was present, his son never 
spoke one word to any one, nay, even though they 
addressed him many times. And when the lady had 
ceased to speak, the king said 

" Connla, my son, has thy mind been moved by the 
words of the lady ? " 

Connla spoke then, and replied, " Father, I am 
very unhappy ; for though I love my people beyond 
all, yet I am filled with sadness on account of this 

When Coniila had said this, the maiden again 
addressed him, and chanted these words in a very 
sweet voice 



A land of youth, a land of rest, 

A land from sorrow free ; 
It lies far off in the golden west, 
On the verge of the azure sea. 
A swift canoe of crystal bright, 

That never met mortal view 
We shall reach the land ere fall of night, 
In that strong and swift canoe : 
We shall reach the strand 
Of that sunny land, 
From druids and demons free; 
The land of rest, 
In the golden west, 
On the verge of the azure sea ! 

A pleasant land of winding vales, bright streams, and verdurous 


Where summer all the live-long year, in changeless splendour reigns: 
A peaceful land of calm delight, of everlasting bloom ; 
Old age and death we never know, no sickness, care, or gloom ; 
The land of you'ch, 
Of love and truth, 
From pain and sorrow free ; 
The land of rest, 
In the golden west, 
On the verge of the azure sea ! 

There are strange delights for mortal men in that island of the 

The sun comes down each evening in its lovely vales to rest: 

And though far and dim 

On the ocean's rim 


It seems to mortal view, 

We shall reach its halls 

Ere the evening falls, 
In my strong and swift canoe : 

And ever more 

That verdant shore 
Our happy home shall be ; 

The land of rest, 

In the golden west, 
On the verge of the azure sea '. 

It will guard thee, gentle Connla of the flowing golden hair, 
It will guard thee from the druids, from the demons of the air ; 
My crystal boat will guard thee, till we reach that western shore, 
Where thou and I in joy and love shall live for evermore : 

From the druid's incantation, 
From his black and deadly snare, 

From the withering imprecation 

Of the demon of the air, 

It will guard thee, gentle Connla of the flowing golden hair : 
My crystal boat will guard thee, till we reach that silver strand. 
Where thou shalt reign in endless joy, the king of the Fairy -land ! * 

When the maiden had ended her chant, Connla 
suddenly walked away from his father's side, and 
sprang into the curragh, the gleaming, straight-gliding, 
strong, crystal canoe. The king and his people saw 
them afar off and dimly, moving away over the bright 
sea towards the sunset. They gazed sadly after them, 
till they lost sight of the canoe over the utmost 
verge ; and no one can tell whither they went, for 
Connla was never again seen in his native land. 

* This is an expansion, rather than a translation, of the original, 
which is very short, and in some places very obscure. 









THERE was once an illustrious man of the tribe of 
Owenaght* of Ninus, Allil Ocar Aga by name, a goodly 
hero, and lord of his own tribe and territory. One 
time, when he was in his house unguarded, a fleet 
of plunderers landed on the coast, and spoiled his 
territory. The chief fled for refuge to the church of 
Dooclone ; but the spoilers followed him thither, slew 
him, and bunded the church over his head. 

* There were several tribes named Owenaght in the south of 
Ireland. This particular tribe were called, as in the text, the 
Owenaght of Ninus, and also, according to an interlined gloss in the 
"Book of the Dun Cow," the Owenaght of the Aras, ^.e. of the Arau 
Islands. Their territory was situated in the north-west of the 
county Clare, opposite the Islands of Aran. 


Not long after Allil's death, a son was born to 
him. The child's mother gave him the name of 
Maildun ; and, wishing to conceal his birth, she brought 
him to the queen of that country, who was her dear 
friend. The queen took him to her, and gave out that 
he was her own child , and he was brought up with 
the king's sons, slept in the same cradle with them, 
and was fed from the same breast and from the same 
cup. fie was a very lovely child ; and the people who 
saw him thought it doubtful if there was any other 
child living at the time equally beautiful. 

As he grew up to be a young man, the noble 
qualities of his mind gradually unfolded themselves. 
He was high-spirited and generous, and he loved 
all sorts of manly exercises. In ball-playing, in 
running and leaping, in throwing the stone, in chess- 
playing, in rowing, and in horse-racing, he surpassed 
all the youths that came to the king's palace, and won 
the palm in every contest. 

One day, when the young men were at their 
games, a certain youth among them grew envious of 
Maildun ; and he said, in an angry and haughty 
tone of voice 

" It is a cause of much shame to us that we have 
to yield in every game, whether of skill or of strength, 
whether on land or on water, to an obscure youth, 
of whom no one can tell who is his father or his 
mother, or what race or tribe he belongs to." 

On hearing this, Maildun ceased at once from 
play; for until that moment he believed that he 


was the son of the king of the Owenaght, and of the 
queen who had nursed him. And going anon to 
the queen, he told her what had happened ; and he 
said to her 

" If I am not thy son, I will neither eat nor drink 
till thou tell me who my father and mother are." 

She tried to soothe him, and said, " Why do you 
worry yourself searching after this matter ? Give 
no heed to the words of this envious youth. Am 
I not a mother to you ? And in all this country, 
is there any mother who loves her son better than 
I love you ? " 

He answered, " All this is quite true ; yet I pray 
thee let me know who my parents are." 

The queen then, seeing that he would not be 
put off, brought him to his mother, and put him 
into her hands. And when he had spoken with 
her, he asked her to tell him who his father was. 

"You are bent on a foolish quest, my child,' 
she said ; " for even if you knew all about your 
father, the knowledge would bring neither advantage 
nor happiness to you; for he died before you were 

" Even so," he replied, " I wish to know who he 

So his mother told him the truth, saying, " Your 
father was Allil Ocar Aga, of the tribe of Owenaght 
of Ninus." 

Maildun then set out for his father's territory; 
and his three foster brothers, namely, the king's 


three sons, who were noble and handsome youths like 
himself, went with him. When the people of his 
tribe found out that the strange youth was the son 
of their chief, whom the plunderers had slain years 
before, and when they were told that the three 
others were the king's sons, they gave them all a 
joyful welcome, feasting them, and showing them 
much honour ; so that Mail dun was made quite happy, 
and soon forgot all the abasement and trouble he 
had undergone. 

Some time after this, it happened that a number 
of young people were in the churchyard of Dooclone 
the same church in which Maildun's father had been 
slain exercising themselves in casting a hand-stone. 
The game was to throw the stone clear over the 
charred roof of the church that had been burned ; and 
Maildun was there contending among the others. A 
foul-tongued fellow named Brickna, a servant of the 
people who owned the church, was standing by ; and 
he said to Maildun 

"It would better become you to avenge the 
man who was burned to death here, than to be 
amusing yourself casting a stone over his bare, burnt 

" Who was he ? " inquired Maildun. 

" Allil Ocar Aga, your father," replied the other. 

" Who slew him ? " asked Maildun. 

" Plunderers from a fleet slew him and burned him 
in this church," replied Brickna; "and the same 
plunderers are still sailing in the same fleet." 


Maildun was disturbed and sad after hearing this. 
He dropped the stone that he held in his hand, folded 
his cloak round him, and buckled on his shield. And 
he left the company, and began to inquire of all he 
met, the road to the plunderers' ships. For a long 
time he could get no tidings of them ; but at last some 
persons, who knew where the fleet' lay, told him that 
it was a long way off, and that there was no reaching 
it except by sea. 

Now Maildun was resolved to find out these 
plunderers, and to avenge on them the death of his 
father. So he went without delay into Corcomroe,* 
to the druid 8 Nuca, to seek his advice about building 
a curragh, and to ask also for a charm to protect him, 
both while building it, and while sailing on the sea 

The druid gave him full instructions. He told 
him the day he should begin to build his curragh, and 
the exact day on which he was to set out on his 
voyage ; and he was very particular about the number 
of the crew, which, he said, was to be sixty chosen 
men, neither more nor less. 

So Maildun built a large triple-hide curragh, 17 
following the druid's directions in every particular, 
chose his crew of sixty, among whom were his two 
friends, Germane and Diuran Lekerd ; and on the day 
appointed put out to sea. 

* Corcomroe, an ancient territory, now a barony in the north- 
west of the county Clare. (For the meaning and history of this 
name, see the author's "Origin and History of Irish Names of Places,' 
Series I. Part i. Chapter ii.) 


When he had got only a very little way from the 
land, he saw his three foster brothers running down 
to the shore, signalling and calling out to him to 
return and take them on board; for they said they 
wished to go with him. 

"We shall not turn back," said Maildun; "and 
you cannoc come with us ; for we have already got 
our exact number." 

" We will swim after you in the sea till we are 
drowned, if you do not return for us," replied they ; 
and so saying, the three plunged in and swam after 
the curragh. 

When Maildun saw this, he turned his vessel 
towards them, and took them on board rather than 
let them be drowned. 



THEY sailed that day and night, as well as the whole 
of next day, till darkness came on again ; and at mid- 
night they saw two small bare islands, with two great 
houses on them near the shore. When they drew 
near, they heard the sounds of merriment and laughter, 
and the shouts of revellers intermingled with the loud 
voices of warriors boasting of their deeds. And listen- 
ing to catch the conversation, they heard one warrior 
say to another 


" Stand off from me, for I am a better warrior than 
thou ; it was I who slew Allil Ocar Aga, and burned 
Dooclone over his head ; and no one has ever dared to 
avenge it on me. Thou hast never done a great deed 
like that ! " 

"Now surely," said Germane and Diuran to 
Maildun, " Heaven has guided our ship to this place ! 
Here is an easy victory. Let us now sack this house, 
since God has revealed our enemies to us, and delivered 
them into our hands ! " 

While they were yet speaking, the wind arose, and 
a great tempest suddenly broke on them. And they 
were driven violently before the storm, all that night 
and a part of next day, into the great and boundless 
ocean ; so that they saw neither the islands they had 
left nor any other land ; and they knew not whither 
they were going. 

Then Maildun said, " Take down your sail and 
put by your oars, and let the curragh drift before the 
wind in whatsoever direction it pleases God to lead 
us ; " which was done. 

He then turned to his foster brothers, and said to 
them, " This evil has befallen us because we took you 
into the curragh, thereby violating the druid's direc- 
tions ; for he forbade me to go to sea with more than 
sixty men for my crew, and we had that number 
before you joined us. Of a surety more evil will come 
of it." 

His foster brothers answered nothing to this, but 
remained silent. 




FOR three days and three nights they saw no land. 
On the morning of the fourth day, while it was yet 
dark, they heard a sound to the north-east; and 
Germane said 

" This is the voice of the waves breaking on the 

As soon as it was light they saw land and made 
towards it. While they were casting lots to know 
who should go and explore the country, they saw 
great flocks of ants coming down to the beach, each of 
them as large as a foal. The people judged by their 
numbers, and by their eager and hungry look, that 
they were bent on eating both ship and crew ; so 
they turned their vessel round and sailed quickly 

Their multitudes countless, prodigious their size ; 

Were never such ants seen or heard of before. 
They struggled and tumbled and plunged for the prize, 
And fiercely the famine-fire blazed from their eyes, 

As they ground with .their teeth the red sand of the shore! 




AGAIN for three days and three nights they saw no 
land. But on the morning of the fourth day they 
heard the murmur of the waves on the beach ; and as 
the day dawned, they saw a large high island, with 
terraces all round it, rising one behind another. On 
the terraces grew rows of tall trees, on which were 
perched great numbers of large, bright-coloured birds. 
When the crew were about to hold council as to 
who should visit the island and see whether the 
birds were tame, Maildun himself offered to go. So 
he went with a few companions ; and they viewed 
the island warily, but found nothing to hurt or 
alarm them ; after which they caught great numbers 
of the birds and brought them to their ship. 

A shield-shaped island, with terraces crowned, 
And great trees circling round and round : 
From the summit down to the wave washed rocks, 
There are bright-coloured birds in myriad flocks 
Their plumes are radiant ; but hunger is keen ; 

So the birds are killed, 

Till the curragh is filled, 
And the sailors embark on the ocean green ! 




THEY sailed from this, and on the fourth day discovered 
a large, sandy island, on which, when they came near, 
they saw a huge, fearful animal standing on the beach, 
and looking at them very attentively. He was some- 
what like a horse in shape ; but his legs were like the 
legs of a dog ; and he had great, sharp claws of a blue 

Maildun, having viewed this monster for some 
time, liked not his look ; and, telling his companions to 
watch him closely, for that he seemed bent on mischief, 
he bade the oarsmen row very slowly towards land. 

The monster seemed much delighted when the ship 
drew nigh the shore, and gambolled and pranced about 
with joy on the beach, before the eyes of the voyagers ; 
for he intended to eat the whole of them the moment 
they landed. 

" He seems not at all sorry to see us coming," said 
Maildun ; " but we must avoid him and put back from 
the shore." 

This was done. And when the animal observed 
them drawing off, he ran down in a great rage to the 
very water's edge, and digging up large, round pebbles 
with his sharp claws, he began to fling them at the 
vessel ; but the crew soon got beyond his reach, and 
sailed into the open sea. 


A horrible monster, with blazing eyes, 

In shape like a horse and tremendous in size, 

Awaiting the curragh, they saw ; 
With big bony jaws 
And murderous claws, 

That filled them with terror and awe : 
How gleeful he dances, 
And bellows and prances, 

As near to the island they draw ; 
Expecting a feast 
The bloodthirsty beast 

With his teeth like edge of a saw: 
Then he ran to the shore, 
With a deafening roar, 

Intending to swallow them raw : 
But the crew, with a shout, 
Put their vessel about, 

And escaped from his ravenous maw ! ' 



AFTER sailing a long distance, they came in view of 
a broad, flat island. It fell to the lot of Germane to go 
and examine it, and he did not think the task a 
pleasant one. Then his friend Diuran said to him 

" I will go with you this time ; and when next it 
falls to my lot to visit an island, you shall come with 
me." So both went together. 

They found the island very large ; and some dis- 
tance from the shore they came to a broad green 

* See note, page 128. 


race-course, in which they saw immense hoof-marks, 
the size of a ship's sail, or of a large dining-table. They 
found nut-shells, as large as helmets, scattered about ; 
and although they could see no one, they observed all 
the marks and tokens that people of huge size were 
lately employed there at sundry kinds of work. 

Seeing these strange signs, they became alarmed, 
and went and called their companions from the boat to 
view them. But the others, when they had seen them, 
were also struck with fear, and all quickly retired 
from the place and went on board their curragh. 

When they had got a little way from the land, they 
saw dimly, as it were through a mist, a vast multitude 
of people on the sea, of gigantic size and demoniac 
look, rushing along the crests of the waves with great 
outcry. As soon as this shadowy host had landed, 
they went 'to the green, where they arranged a horse- 

The horses were swifter than the wind ; and as 
they pressed forward in the race, the multitudes raised 
a mighty shout like thunder, which reached the crew 
as if it were beside them. Maildun and his men, as 
they sat in their curragh', heard the strokes of the 
whips and the cries of the riders ; and though the race 
was far off, they could distinguish the eager words of 
the spectators : " Observe the grey horse ! " " See 
that chestnut horse ! " " Watch the horse with the 
white spots ! " " My horse leaps better than yours ! " 

After seeing and hearing these things, the crew 
sailed away from the island as quickly as they were 


able, into the open ocean, for they felt quite sure that 
the multitude they saw was a gathering of demons. 

A spacious isle of meadowy plains, with a broad au 1 sandy shore : 
Two bold and trusty spies are sent, its wonders to explore. 
Mysterious signs, strange, awful sights, now meet the wanderers' 


Vast hoof-marks, and the traces dire of men of monstrous size : 
And lo ! on the sea, in countless hosts, their shadowy forms expand ; 
They pass the affrighted sailors by, and like demons they rush tc 

They mount their steeds, and the race is run, in the midst of hell'- 

uproar : 
Then the wanderers quickly raise their sails, and leave the accurst 




THEY suffered much from hunger and thirst this 
time, for they sailed a whole week without making 
land ; but at the end of that time they came in sight of 
a high island, with a large and very splendid house 
on the beach near the water's edge. There were two 
doors one turned inland, and the other facing the sea ; 
and the door that looked towards the sea was closed 
with a great flat stone. In this stone was an opening, 
through which the waves, as they beat against the 
door every day, threw numbers of salmon into the 

The voyagers landed, and went through the whole 
house without meeting any one. But they saw in one 


large room an ornamented couch, intended for the head 
of the house, and in each of the other rooms was a 
larger one for three members of the family : and there 
was a cup of crystal on a little table before each couch. 
They found abundance of food and ale, and they ate 
and drank till they were satisfied, thanking God for 
having relieved them from hunger and thirst. 

Aloft, high towering o'er the ocean's foam, 

The spacious mansion rears its glittering dome. 

Each day the billows, through the marble door, 

Shoot living salmon floundering on the floor. 

Couches that lure the sailors to recline, 

Abundant food, brown ale, and sparkling wine ; 

Tables and chairs in order duly placed, 

With crystal cups and golden goblets graced. 

But not a living soul the wanderers found ; 

'Twas silence all and solitude profound. 

They eat and drink, give thanks, then hoist their sail, 

And skim the deep once more, obedient to the gale. 



AFTER leaving this, they suffered again from hunger, 
till they came to an island with a high hill round it 
on every side. A single apple tree grew in the middle, 
very tall and slender, and all its branches were in like 
manner exceedingly slender, and of wonderful length, 
so that they grew over the hill and down to the sea. 
When the ship came near the island, Maildun 


caught one of the branches in his hand. For three 
days and three nights the ship coasted the island, 
and during all this time he held the branch, lettino- 
it slide through his hand, till on the third day 
he found a cluster of seven apples on the very end 
Each of these apples supplied the travellers with food 
and drink for forty days and forty nights. 



A BEAUTIFUL island next came in view, in which 
they saw, at a distance, multitudes of large animals 
shaped like horses. The voyagers, as they drew 
near, viewed them attentively, and soon observed that 
one of them opened his mouth and bit a great piece 
out of the side of the animal that stood next him, 
bringing away skin and flesh. Immediately after, 
another did the same to the nearest of his fellows. 
And, in short, the voyagers saw that all the animals 
in the island kept worrying and tearing each other 
from time to time in this manner ; so 1 that the 
ground was covered far and wide with the blood 
that streamed from their sides. 

In needless strife they oft contend, 

A cruel, mutual-mangling brood ; 
Their flesh with gory tusks they rend, 

And crimson all the isle with blood. 




THE next island had a wall ail round it. When they 
came near the shore, au animal of vast size, with a 
thick, rough skin, started up inside the wall, and ran 
round the island with the swiftness of the wind. 
When he had ended his race, he went to a high 
point, and standing on a large, flat stone, began to 
exercise himself according to his daily custom, in the 
following manner. He kept turning himself completely 
round and round in his skin, the bones and flesh 
moving, while the skin remained at rest. 

When he was tired of this exercise, he rested a 
little ; and he then began turning his skin continually 
round his body, down at one side and up at the other 
like a mill-wheel; but the bones and flesh did not 

After spending some time at this sort of work, he 
started and ran round the island as at first, as if to 
refresh himself. He then went back to the same spot, 
and this time, while the skin that covered the lower 
part of his body remained without motion, he whirled 
the skin of the upper part round and round like the 
movement of a flat-lying millstone. And it was in 
this manner that he spent most of his time on the 

Maildun and his people, after they had seen 


these strange doings, thought it better not to venture 
nearer. So they put out to sea in great haste. The 
monster, observing them about to fly, ran down to the 
beach to seize the ship ; but finding that they had got 
out of his reach, he began to fling round stones at 
them with great force and an excellent aim. One of 
them struck Maildun's shield and went quite through 
it, lodging in the keel of the curragh ; after which the 
voyagers got beyond his range and sailed away. 

In a wall-circled isle a big monster they found, 
With a hide like an elephant, leathery and bare j 

He threw up his heels with a wonderful bound, 
And ran round the isle with the speed of a hare. 

But a feat more astounding has yet to be told : 
He turned round and round in his leathery skin ; 

His bones and his flesh and his sinews he rolled 
He was resting outside while he twisted within ! 

Then, changing his practice with marvellous skill, 
His carcase stood rigid and round went his hide ; 

It whirled round his bones like the wheel of a mill 
He was resting within while he twisted outside ! 

Next, standing quite near on a green little hill, 
After galloping round in the very same track, 

While the skin of his belly stood perfectly still, 
Like a millstone he twisted the skin of his back ! 

But Maildun and his men put to sea in their boat, 
For they saw his two eyes looking over the wall ; 

And they knew by the way that he opened his throat, 
He intended to swallow them, curragh and all ! * 

* The verse in the original is quite serious ; but 1 could not resist 
the temptation to give it a humorous turn. The same observation 
applies to the verse at page 122. 




NOT daring to land on this island, they turned away 
hurriedly, much disheartened, not knowing whither to 
turn or where to find a resting-place. They sailed for 
a long time, suffering much from hunger and thirst, 
and praying fervently to be relieved from their 
distress. At last, when they were beginning to 
sink into a state of despondency, being quite worn 
out with toil and hardship of every kind, they 
sighted land. 

It was a large and beautiful island, with innumer- 
able fruit trees scattered over its surface, bearing 
abundance of gold-coloured apples. Under the trees 
they saw herds of short, stout animals, of a bright red 
colour, shaped somewhat like pigs ; but coming nearer, 
and looking more closely, they perceived with astonish- 
ment that the animals were all fiery, and that their 
bright colour was caused by the red flames which 
penetrated and lighted up their bodies. 

The voyagers now observed several of them 
approach one of the trees in a body, and striking 
the trunk all together with their hind legs, they 
shook down some of the apples and ate them. In 
this manner the -animals employed themselves every 
day, from early morning till the setting of the sun 


when they retired into deep caves, and were seen no 
more till next morning. 

Numerous flocks of birds were swimming on the 
sea, all round the island. From morning till noon, 
they continued to swim away from the land, farther 
and farther out to sea ; but at noon they turned round, 
and from that to sunset they swam back towards the 
shore. A little after sunset, when the animals had 
retired to their caves, the birds flocked in on the 
island, and spread themselves over it, plucking the 
apples from the trees and eating them. 

Maildun proposed that they should land on the 
island, and gather some of the fruit, saying that it 
was not harder or more dangerous for them than for 
the birds ; so two of the men were sent beforehand to 
examine the place. They found the ground hot under 
their feet, for the fiery animals, as they lay at rest, 
heated the earth all around and above their caves; 
but the two scouts persevered notwithstanding, and 
brought away some of the apples. 

When morning dawned, the birds left the island 
and swam out to sea ; and the fiery animals, coming 
forth from their caves, went among the trees as usual, 
and ate the apples till evening. The crew remained 
in their curragh all day ; and as soon as the animals 
had gone into their caves for the night, and the birds 
had taken their place, Maildun landed with all his 
men. And they plucked the apples till morning, and 
brought them on board, till they had gathered as much 
as they could stow into their vessel. 




AFTER rowing for a long time, their store of apples 
failed them, and they had nothing to eat or drink ; so 
that they suffered sorely under a hot sun, and their 
mouths and nostrils were filled with the briny smell 
of the sea. At last they came in sight of land a 
little island with a large palace on it. Around the 
palace was a wall, white all over, without stain or 
flaw, as if it had been built of burnt lime, or carved 
out of one unbroken rock of chalk; and where it 
looked towards the sea it was so lofty that it seemed 
almost to reach the clouds. 

The gate of this outer wall was open, and a number 
of fine houses, all snowy white, were ranged round 
on the inside, enclosing a level court in the middle, 
on which all the houses opened. Maildun and 
his people entered the largest of them, and walked 
through several rooms without meeting with any 
one. But on reaching the principal apartment, they 
saw in it a small cat, playing among a number of 
low, square, marble pillars, which stood ranged in a 
row ; and his play was, leaping continually from the 
top of one pillar to the top of another. When the 
men entered the room, the cat looked at them for a 
moment, but returned to his play anon, and took no 
turther notice of them. 


Looking now to the room itself, they saw three 
rows of precious jewels ranged round the wall from 
one door-jamb to the other. The first was a row of 
brooches of gold and silver, with their pins fixed in 
the wall, and their heads outwards ; the second, a row 
of torques of gold and silver ; and the third, a row of 
great swords, with hilts of gold and silver. 

Round the room were arranged a number of 
couches, all pure white and richly ornamented. 
Abundant food of various kinds was spread on 
tables, among which they observed a boiled ox and a 
roast hog ; and there were many large drinking-horns, 
full of good, intoxicating ale. 

" Is it for us that this food has been prepared ? " 
said Maildun to the cat. 

The cat, on hearing the question, ceased from 
playing, and _ooked at him ; but he recommenced his 
play immediately. Whereupon Maildun told his 
people that the dinner was meant for them ; and 
they all sat down, and ate and drank till they were 
satisfied, after which they rested and slept on the 

When they awoke, they poured what was left 
of the ale into one vessel; and they gathered the 
remnants of the food to bring them away. As they 
were about to go, Maildun's eldest foster brother asked 
him- - 

" Shall I bring one of those large torques away 
with me ? * 

" By no means," said Maildun ; " it is well that 


we have got food and rest. Bring nothing away, 
for it is certain that this house is not left without 
some one to guard it." 

The young man, however, disregarding Maildun's 
advice, took down one of the torques and brought it 
away. But the cat followed him, and overtook him 
in the middle of the court, and, springing on him like 
a blazing, fiery arrow, he went through his body, and 
reduced it in a moment to a heap of ashes. He then 
returned to the room, and, leaping up on one of the 
pillars, sat upon it. 

Maildun turned back, bringing the torque with 
him, and, approaching the cat, spoke some soothing 
words; after which he put the torque back to the 
place from which it had been taken. Having done 
this, he collected the ashes of his foster brother, and, 
bringing them to the shore, cast them into the sea. 
They all then went on board the curragh, and con- 
tinued their voyage, grieving for their lost companion, 
but thanking God for His many mercies to them. 



ON the morning of the third day, they came to another 
island, which was divided into two parts by a wall 
of brass running across the middle. They saw two 


great flocks of sheep, one on each side of the wall ; 
and all those at one side were black, while those at 
the other side were white. 

A very large man was employed in dividing and 
arranging the sheep ; and he often took up a sheep 
and threw it with much ease over the wall from one 
side to the other. When he threw over a white sheep 
among the black ones, it became black immediately ; 
and in like manner, when he threw a black sheep 
over, it was instantly changed to white. 

The travellers were very much alarmed on witness- 
ing these doings and Maildun said 

" It is very well that we know so far. Let us now 
throw something on shore, to see whether it also will 
change colour ; if it does, we shall avoid the island." 

So they took a branch with black-coloured bark 
and threw it towards the white sheep, and no sooner 
did it touch the ground than it became white. They 
then threw a white-coloured branch on the side of the 
blacK sheep, and in a moment it turned black. 

" It is very lucky for us," said Maildun, " that we 
did not land on the island, for doubtless our colour 
would have changed like the colour of the branches." 

So they put about with much fear, and sailed 




ON the third day, they came in view of a large, broad 
island, on which they saw a herd of gracefully shaped 
swine ; and they killed one small porkling for food 
Towards the centre rose a high mountain, which they 
resolved to ascend, in order to view the island ; and 
Germane and Diuran Lekerd were chosen for this task. 

When they had advanced some distance towards 
the mountain, they came to a broad, shallow river ; 
and sitting down on the bank to rest, Germane dipped 
the point of his lance into the water, which instantly 
burned off the top ; as if the lance had been thrust into 
a furnace. So they went no farther. 

On the opposite side of the river, they saw a herd 
of animals like great hornless oxen, all lying down : 
and a man of gigantic size near them : and Germane 
began to strike his spear against his shield, in order to 
rouse the cattle. 

" Why are you frightening the poor young calves 
in that manner ? " demanded the big shepherd, in a 
tremendous voice. 

Germane, astonished to find that such large 
animals were nothing more than calves, instead of 
answering the question, asked the big man where the 
mothers of those calves were. 


"They are on the side of yonder mountain," he 

Germane and Diuran waited to hear no more ; but, 
returning to their companions, told them all they had 
seen and heard ; after which the crew embarked and 
left the island. 



THE next island they came to, which was not far off 
from the last, had a large mill on it ; and near the 
door stood the miller, a huge-bodied, strong, burly man. 
They saw numberless crowds of men and horses laden 
with corn, coming towards the mill ; and when their 
corn was ground they went away towards the west. 
Great herds of all kinds of cattle covered the plain as 
far as the eye could reach, and among them many 
wagons laden with every kind of wealth that is 
produced on the ridge of the world. All these the 
miller put into the mouth of his mill to be ground ; 
and all, as they came forth, went westwards. 

Maildun and his people now spoke to the miller, 
and asked him the name of the mill, and the meaning 
of all they had seen on the island. And he, turning 
quickly towards them, replied in few words 

" This mill is called the Mill of Inver-tre-Kenand, 
and I am the miller of hell All the corn and all the 


riches of the world that men are dissatisfied with, or 
which they complain of in any way, are sent here to 
be ground ; and also every precious article, and every 
kind of wealth, which men try to conceal from God. 
All these I grind in the Mill of Inver-tre-Kenand, and 
send them afterwards away to the west." 

He spoke no more, but turned round and busied 
himself again with his mill. And the voyagers, with 
much wonder and awe in their hearts, went to their 
curragh and sailed away.* 



AFTER leaving this, they had not been long sailing 
when they discovered another large island, with a great 
multitude of people on it. They were all black, both 
skin and clothes, with black head-dresses also ; and 
they kept walking about, sighing and weeping and 
wringing their hands, without the least pause or rest. 
It fell to the lot of Maildun's second foster brother 
to go and examine the island. And when he went 
among the people, he also grew sorrowful, and fell to 
weeping and wringing his hands, with the others. 

* The incident of the big miller occurs in the Voyage of the Sons 
of O'Corra, as well as in the Voyage of Maildnn. The two account* 
are somewhat different ; and I have combined both here. 


Two of the crew were sent to bring him back ; but 
they were unable to find him among the mourners ; 
and, what was worse, in a little time they joined the 
crowd, and began to weep and lament like all the 

Maildun then chose four men to go and bring back 
the others by force, and he put arms in their hands, 
and gave them these directions 

" When you land on the island, fold your mantles 
round your faces, so as to cover your mouths and noses, 
that you may not breathe the air of the country ; and 
look neither to the right nor to the left, neither at the 
earth nor at the sky, but fix your eyes on your own 
men till you have laid hands on them.'' 

They did exactly as they were told, and having 
come up with their two companions, namely, those who 
had been sent after Maildun's foster brother, they seized 
them and brought them back by force. But the other 
they could not find. When these two were asked 
what they had seen on the island, and why they began 
to weep, their only reply was 

" We cannot tell ; we only know that we did what 
we saw the others doing." 

And after this the voyagers sailed away from the 
island, leaving Maildun's second foster brother behind. 




THE next was a high island, divided into four parts 
by four walls meeting in the centre. The first was a 
wall of gold ; the second, a wall of silver ; the third, a 
wall of copper ; and the fourth, a wall of crystal. In 
the first of the four divisions were kings ; in the second, 
queens; in the third, youths; and in the fourth, young 

When the voyagers landed, one of the maidens 
came to meet them, and leading them forward to a 
house, gave them food. This food, which she dealt out 
to them from a small vessel, looked like cheese, and 
whate rer taste pleased each person best, that was the 
taste he found on it. And after they had eaten till 
they were satisfied, they slept in a sweet sleep, as if 
gently intoxicated, for three days and three nights. 
When they awoke on the third day, they found them- 
selves in their curragh on the open sea; and there was 
no appearance in any direction either of the maiden or 
of the island. 



THEY came now to a small island, with a palace on it, 
having a copper chain in front, hung all over with a 
number of little silver bells. Straight before the door 


there was a fountain, spanned by a bridge of crystal, 
which led to the palace. They walked towards the 
bridge, meaning to cross it, but every time they stepped 
on it they fell backwards flat on the ground. 

After some time, they saw a very beautiful young 
woman coming out of the palace, with a pail in her 
hand ; and she lifted a crystal slab from the bridge, and, 
having filled her vessel from the fountain, she went 
back into the palace. 

" This woman has been sent to keep house for Mail- 
dun," said Germane. 

" Mail dun indeed ! " said she, as she shut the door 
after her. 

After this they began to shake the copper chain, 
and the tinkling of the silver bells was so soft and 
melodious that the voyagers gradually fell into a 
gentle, tranquil sleep, and slept so till next morning. 
When they awoke, they saw the same young woman 
coming forth from the palace, with the pail in her 
hand ; and she lifted the crystal slab as before, filled 
her vessel, and returned into the palace. 

" This woman has certainly been sent to keep house 
for Maildun," said Germane. 

" Wonderful arc the powers of Maildun ! " said she, 
as she shut the door of the court behind her. 

They stayed in this place for three days and three 
nights, and each morning the maiden came forth in the 
same manner, and filled her pail. On the fourth day, 
she came towards them, splendidly and beautifully 
dressed, with her bright yellow hair bound by a 


circlet of gold, and wearing silver-work shoes on her 
small, white feet. She had a white mantle over her 
shoulders, which was fastened in front by a silver 
brooch studded with gold ; and under all, next her 
soft, snow-white skin, was a garment of fine white 

" My love to you, Maildun, and to your companions," 
Bhe said ; and she mentioned them all, one after another, 
calling each by his own proper name. " My love to 
you," said she. " We knew well that you were coming 
to our island, for your arrival has long been foretold 
to us." 

Then she led them to a large house standing by the 
sea, and she caused the curragh to be drawn high up 
on the beach. They found in the house a number 
of couches, one ot which was intended lor Maildun 
alone, and each of the others for three of his people. 
The woman then gave them, from one vessel, food 
which was like cheese; first of all ministering to 
Maildun, and then giving a triple share to every 
three of his companions; and whatever taste each 
man wished ior, that was the taste he found on it. 
She then lifted the crystal slab at the bridge, filled 
her pail, and dealt out drink to them; and she knew 
exactly how much to give, both of food and of 
drink, so that each had enough and no more. 

" This woman would make a fit wife for Maildun," 
said his people. But while they spoke, she went from 
them with her pail in her hand. 

When she was gone, Maildun's companions said 


to him, " Shall we ask this maiden to become thy 
wife ? " 

He answered, " What advantage will it be to you 
to ask her ? " 

She came next morning, and they said to her, 
" Why dost thou not stay here with us ? Wilt thou 
make friendship with Maildun ; and wilt thou take 
him for thy husband ? " 

She replied that she and all those that lived 
on the island were forbidden to marry with the sons 
of men ; and she told them that she could not 
disobey, as she knew not what sin or transgression 

She then went from them to her house ; and on 
the next morning, when she returned, and after she 
had ministered to them as usual, till they were 
satisfied with food and drink, and were become 
cheerful, they spoke the same words to her. 

"To-morrow," she replied, "you will get an 
answer to your question ; " and so saying, she walked 
towards her house, and they went to sleep on their 

When they awoke next morning, they found 
themselves lying in their curragh on the sea, beside 
a great high rock ; and when they looked about, they 
saw neither the woman, nor the palace of the crystal 
bridge, nor any trace of the island where they had 
been sojourning. 




ONE night, soon after leaving this, they heard in the 
distance, towards the north-east, a confused murrain 
of voices, as if from a great number of persons singing 
psalms. They followed the direction of the sound, 
in order to learn from what it proceeded; and at 
noon the next day, they came in view of an island, 
very hilly and lofty. It was full of hirds, some 
black, some brown, and some speckled, who were 
all shouting and speaking with human voices ; and 
it was from them that the great clamour came. 



AT a little distance from this they found another 
small island, with many trees on it, some standing 
singly, and some in clusters, on which were perched 
great numbers of birds. They also saw an aged man 
on the island, who was covered thickly all over with 
long, white hair, and wore no other dress. And when 
they landed, they spoke to him, and asked him who 
he was and what race he belonged to. 

" I am one of the men of Erin," he replied. " On 


a certain day, a long, long time ago, I embarked in a 
small curragh, and put out to sea on a pilgrimage ; 
but I had got only a little way from shore, when my 
curragh became very unsteady, as if it were about 
to overturn. So I returned to land, and, in order 
to steady my boat, I placed under my feet at the 
bottom, a number of green surface sods, cut from one 
of the grassy fields of my own country, and began my 
voyage anew. Under the guidance of God, I arrived 
at this spot ; and He fixed the sods in the sea for me, 
so that they formed a little island. At first I had 
barely room to stand ; but every year, from that time 
to the present, the Lord has added one foot to the 
length and breadth of my island, till in the long 
lapse of ages it has grown to its present size. And 
on one day in each year, He has caused a single tree 
to spring up, till the island has become covered with 
trees. Moreover, I am so old that my body, as you 
see, has become covered with long, white hair, so that 
I need no other dress. 

" And the birds that ye see on the trees," he 
continued, " these are the souls of my children, and 
of all my descendants, both men and women, who 
are sent to this little island to abide with me according 
as they die in Erin. God has caused a well of ale 
to spring up for us on the island : and every morning 
the angels bring me half a cake, a slice of fish, and a 
cup of ale from the well ; and in the evening the same 
allowance of food and ale is dealt out to each man 
and woman of my people. And it is in this manner 


that we live, and shall continue to live till the end 
of the world ; for we are all awaiting here the day of 

Maildun and his companions were treated hospitably 
on the island by the old pilgrim for three days and 
three nights; and when they were taking leave of 
him, he told them that they should all reach their 
own country except one man. 



WHEN they had been for a long time tossed about 
on the waters, they saw land in the distance. On ap- 
proaching the shore, they heard the roaring of a great 
bellows, and the thundering sound of smiths' hammers 
striking a large glowing mass of iron on an anvil ; and 
every blow seemed to Maildun as loud as if a dozen 
men had brought down their sledges all together. 

When they had come a little nearer, they heard 
the big voices of the smiths in eager talk. 

" Are they near ? " asked one. 

" Hush ! silence ! " says another. 

"Who are they that you say are coming?" in- 
quired a third. 

h Little fellows, that are rowing towards our shore 
in a pigmy boat," says the first. 


When Maildun heard this, he hastily addressed the 
crew . 

" Put back at once, but do not turn the curragh : 
reverse the sweep of your oars, and let her move stem 
forward, so that those giants may not perceive that 
we are flying ! " 

The crew at once obey, and the boat begins to 
move away from the shore, stern forward, as he had 

The first smith again spoke. "Are they near 
enough to the shpre ? " said he to the man who was 

" They seem to be at rest," answered the other ; 
" for I cannot perceive that they are coming closer, and 
they have not turned their little boat to go back." 

In a short time the first smith asks again, " What 
are they doing now ? " 

" I think," said the watcher, " they are flying ; for 
it seems to me that they are now farther off than they 
were a while ago." 

At this the first smith rushed out of the forge 
a huge, burly giant holding, in the tongs which he 
grasped in his right hand, a vast mass of iron sparkling 
and glowing from the furnace ; and, running down to 
the shore with long, heavy strides, he flung the red- 
hot mass with all his might after the curragh. It fell 
a little short, and plunged down just near the prow, 
causing the whole sea to hiss and boil and h^ave ap 
around the boat. But they plied their oars, so that 
they quickly got beyond his reach, and sailed OJL into 
the open ocean. 




AFTER a time, they came to a sea like green crystal 
It was so calm and transparent that they could see 
the sand at the bottom quite clearly, sparkling in the 
sunlight. And in this sea they saw neither monsters, 
nor ugly animals, nor rough rocks; nothing but the 
clear water and the sunshine and the bright sand. 
For a whole day they sailed over it, admiring its 
splendour and beauty. 



AFTER leaving this they entered on another sea, which 
seemed like a clear, thin cloud ; and it was so trans- 
parent, and appeared so light, that they thought at 
first it would not bear up the weight of the curragh. 

Looking down, they could see, beneath the clear 
water, a beautiful country, with many mansions sur- 
rounded by groves and woods. In one place was a 
single tree ; and, standing on its branches, they saw 
an animal fierce and terrible to look upon. 

Round about the tree was a great herd of oxen 
grazing, and a man stood near to guard them, armed 


with shield and spear and sword ; but when he looked 
up and saw the animal on the tree, he turned anon 
and fled with the utmost speed. Then the monster 
stretched forth his neck, and, darting his head 
downward, plunged his fangs into the back of the 
largest ox of the whole herd, lifted him oft the ground 
into the tree, and swallowed him down in the twinkling 
of an eye : whereupon the whole herd took to flight. 

When Maildun and his people saw this, they were 
seized with great terror ; for they feared they should 
not be able to cross the sea over the monster, on 
account ot the extreme mist-like thinness ot the 
water; but after much difficulty and clanger they got 
across it saieJy. 



WHEN they came to the next island, they observed 
with astonishment that the sea rose up over it on 
every side, steep and high, standing, as it were, like a 
wall all round it. When the people of the island saw 
the voyagers, they rushed hither and thither, shouting, 
" There they are, surely ! There they come again for 
another spoil ! " 

Then Maildun 'a people saw great numbers of men 
and women, all shouting and driving vast herds of 
horses, cows, and sheep. A woman began to pelt the 


crew from below with large nuts ; she flung them so 
that they alighted on the waves round the boat, 
where they remained floating ; and the crew gathered 
great quantities of them and kept them for eating. 

When they turned to go away, the shouting ceased : 
and they heard one man calling aloud, " Where are 
they now ? " and another answering him, " They are 
gone away ! " 

From what Maildun saw and heard at this island, 
it is likely that it had been foretold to the people that 
their country should some day be spoiled by certain 
marauders ; and that they thought Maildun and his 
men were the enemies they expected. 



ON the next island they saw a very wonderful thing, 
namely, a great stream of water which, gushing up out 
of the strand, rose into the air in the form of a rain^ 
bow, till it crossed the whole island and came down 
on the strand at the other side. They walked under 
it without getting wet ; and they hooked down from 
it many large salmon. Great quantities of salmon of 
a very great size fell also out of the water over their 
heads down on the ground ; so that the whole island 
smelled of fish, and it became troublesome to gather 
them on account of their abundance. 


From the evening of Sunday till the evening of 
Monday, the stream never ceased to flow, and never 
changed its place, but remained spanning the island 
like a solid arch of water. Then the voyagers 
gathered the largest of the salmon, till they had as 
much as the curragh would hold; after which they 
sailed out into the great sea. 



THE next thing they found after this was an immense 
silver pillar standing in the sea. It had eight sides, 
each of which was the width of an oar-stroke of the 
curragh, so that its whole circumference was eight 
oar-strokes. It rose out of the sea without any land 
or earth about it, nothing but the boundless ocean; 
and they could not see its base deep down in the 
water, neither were they able to see the top on 
account of its vast height. 

A silver net hung from the top down to the very 
water, extending far out at one side of the pillar; 
and the meshes were so large that the curragh in full 
sail went through one of them. When they were 
passing through it, Diuran struck the mesh with the 
edge of his spear, and with the blow cut a large 
piece off it. 


" Do not destroy the net," said Maildun ; " for what 
we see is the work of great men." 

" What I have done," answered Diuran, " is for the 
honour of my God, and in order that the story of our 
adventures may be more readily believed ; and I shall 
lay this silver as an ofiering on the altar of Armagh, 
if I ever reach Erin." 

That piece of silver weighed two ounces and a half, 
as it was reckoned afterwards by the people of the 
church of Armagh. 

After this they heard some one speaking on the 
top of the pillar, in a loud, clear, glad voice ; but they 
knew neither what he said, nor in what language he 



THE island they saw after this was named Encos ; * 
and it was so called because it was supported by a 
single pillar in the middle. They rowed all round it t 
seeking how they might get into it ; but could find 
no landing-place. At the foot of the pillar, however, 
down deep in the water, they saw a door securely 
closed and locked, and they judged that this was 
the way into the island. They called aloud, to find 
out if any persons were living there; but they got 
no reply. So they left it, and put out to sea once 

* Encos means " one foot. " 




THE next island they reached was very large. On one 
side rose a lofty, smooth, heath-clad mountain, and 
all the rest of the island was a grassy plain. Near the 
sea-shore stood a great high palace, adorned with 
carvings and precious stones, and strongly fortified 
with a high rampart all round. After landing, they 
went towards the palace, and sat to rest on the 
bench before the gateway leading through the outer 
rampart ; and, looking in through the open door, 
they saw a number of beautiful young maidens in 
the court. 

After they had sat for some time, a rider appeared 
at a distance, coming swiftly towards the palace ; and 
on a near approach, the travellers perceived that it was 
a lady, young and beautiful and richly dressed. She 
wore a blue, rustling silk head-dress ; a silver-fringed 
purple cloak hung from her shoulders ; her gloves were 
embroidered with gold thread ; and her feet were laced 
becomingly in close-fitting scarlet sandals. One of the 
maidens came out and held her horse, while she dis- 
mounted and entered the palace; and soon after she 
had gone in, another of the maidens came towards 
Maildun and his companions and said 

" You are welcome to this island. Come into the 


palace ; the queen has sent me to invite you, and is 
waiting to receive you." 

They followed the maiden into the palace ; and the 
queen bade them welcome, and received them kindly. 
Then, leading them into a large hall in which a plen- 
tiful dinner was laid out, she bade them sit down and 
eat. A dish of choice food and a crystal goblet of 
wine were placed before Maildun ; while a single dish 
and a single drinking-bowl, with a triple quantity of 
meat and drink, were laid before each three of his 
companions. And having eaten and drunk till they 
were satisfied, they went to sleep on soft couches 
till morning. 

Next day, the queen addressed Maildun and his 

" Stay now in this country, and do not go a- 
wandering any longer over the wide ocean from island 
to island. Old age or sickness shall never come upon 
you ; but you shall be always as young as you are at 
present, and you shall live for ever a life of ease and 

" Tell us," said Maildun, " how you pass your life 

"That is no hard matter," answered the queen. 
"The good king who formerly ruled over this island 
was my husband, and these fair young maidens that 
you see are our children. He died after a long reign, 
and as he left no son, I now reign, the sole ruler ot 
the island. And every day I go to the Great Plain, 
to administer justice and to decide causes among my 


" Wilt thou go from us to-day ? " asked Maildun. 

" I must needs go even now," she replied, " to give 
judgments among the people ; but as to you, you will 
all stay in this house till I return in the evening, and 
you need not trouble yourselves with any labour or 

They remained in that island during the three 
months of winter. And these three months appeared 
to Maildun's companions as long as three years, for 
they began to have an earnest desire to return to their 
native land. At the end of that time, one of them 
said to Maildun 

" We have been a long time here ; why do we not 
return to our own country ? " 

"What you say is neither good nor sensible," 
answered Maildun, " for we shall not find in our own 
country anything better than we have here." 

But this did not satisfy his companions, and they 
began to murmur loudly. "It is quite clear," said 
they, " that Maildun loves the queen of this island ; 
and as this is so, let him stay here; but as for us, 
we will return to our own country." 

Maildun, however, would not consent to remain 
after them, and he told them that he would go away 
with them. 

Now, on a certain day, not long after this conversa- 
tion, as soon as the queen had gone to the Great Plain 
to administer justice, according to her daily custom, 
they got their curragh ready and put out to sea. They 
had not gone very far from land when the queen came 


riding towards the shore ; and, seeing how matters 
stood, she went into the palace and soon returned 
with a ball of thread in her hand. 

Walking down to the water's edge, she flung the 
ball after the curragh, but held the end of the thread 
in her hand. Maildun caught the ball as it was 
passing, and it clung to his hand; and the queen, 
gently pulling the thread towards her, drew back the 
curragh to the very spot from which they had started 
in the little harbour. And when they had landed, she 
made them promise that if ever this happened again, 
some one should always stand up in the boat and 
catch the ball. 

The voyagers abode on the island, much against 
their will, for nine months longer. For every time 
they attempted to escape, the queen brought them 
back by means of the clew, as she had done at first, 
Maildun always catching the ball. 

At the end of the nine months, the men held 
council, and this is what they said 

"We know now that Maildun does not wish to 
leave the island ; for he loves this queen very much, 
and he catches the ball whenever we try to escape, in 
order that we may be brought back to the palace." 

Maildun replied, " Let some one else attend to the 
ball next time, and let us try whether it will cling to 
his hand." 

They agreed to this, and, watching their oppor- 
tunity, they again put off towards the open sea. The 
queen arrived, as usual, before they had gone very far 


and. flung the ball after them as before. Another man 
of the crew caught it, and it clung as firmly to his 
hand as to Maildun's ; and the queen began to draw 
the curragh towards the shore. But Diuran, drawing 
his sword, cut oft' the man's hand, which fell with the 
ball into the sea ; and the men gladly plying their oars, 
the curragh resumed her outward voyage. 

When the queen saw this, she began to weep and 
lament, wringing her hands and tearing her hair with 
grief; and her maidens also began to weep and cry 
aloud and clap their hands, so that the whole palace 
was full of grief and lamentation. But none the 
less did the men bend to their oars, and the curragh 
sailed away; and it was in this manner that the 
voyagers made their escape from the island. 



THEY were now a long time tossed about on the great 
billows, when at length they came in view of an island 
with many trees on it. These trees were somewhat 
like hazels, and they were laden with a kind of fruit 
which the voyagers had not seen before, extremely 
large, and not very different in appearance from 
apples, except that they had a rough, berry -like rind. 


After the crew had plucked all the fruit off one 
small tree, they cast lots who should try them, and 
the lot fell on Maildun. So he took some of them, 
and, squeezing the juice into a vessel, drank it v lt 
threw him into a sleep of intoxication so deep that he 
seemed to be in a trance rather than in a natural 
slumber, without breath or motion, and with the red 
foam on his lips. And from that hour till the same 
hour next day, no one could tell whether he was living 
or dead. 

When he awoke next day, he bade his people to 
gather as much of the fruit as they could bring away 
with them ; for the world, as he told them, never pro- 
duced anything of such surpassing goodness. They 
pressed out the juice of the fruit till they had filled 
all their vessels; and so powerful was it to produce 
intoxication and sleep, that, before drinking it, they 
had to mix a large quantity of water with it to 
moderate its strength. 



THE island they came to next was larger than most of 
those they had seen. On one side grew a wood of 
yew trees and great oaks ; and on the other side was 


a grassy plain, with one small lake in the midst. 
A noble-looking house stood on the near part of the 
plain, with a small church not far off; and numerous 
flocks of sheep browsed over the whole island. > 

The travellers went to the church, and found in 
it a hermit, with snow-white beard and hair, and all 
the other marks of great old age. Maildun asked 
who he was, and whence he had come. 

He replied, " I am one of the fifteen people, who, 
following the example of our master, Brendan of 
Birra, 20 sailed on a pilgrimage out into the great ocean. 
After many wanderings, we settled on this island, 
where we lived for a long time ; but my companions 
died one after another, and of all who came hither, 
I alone am left." 

The old pilgrim then showed them Brendan's 
satchel, 21 which he and his companions had brought 
with them on their pilgrimage ; and Maildun kissed it, 
and all bowed down in veneration before it. And he 
told them that as long as they remained there, they 
might eat of the sheep and of the other food of the 
island ; but to waste nothing. 

One day, as they were seated on a hill, gazing out 
over the sea, they saw what they took to be a black 
cloud coming towards them from the south-west. They 
continued to view it very closely as it came nearer and 
nearer ; and at last they perceived with amazement 
that it was an immense bird, for they saw quite plainly 
the slow, heavy flapping of his wings. When he 
reached the island, he alighted on a little hillock over 


the lake ; and they felt no small alarm, for they thought, 
on account of his vast size, that if he saw them, he 
might seize them in his talons, and carry them off over 
the sea. So they hid themselves under trees and in 
the crannies of rocks ; but they never lost sight of the 
bird, for they were bent on watching his movements. 

He appeared very old, and he held in one claw a 
branch of a tree, which he had brought with him over 
the sea, larger and heavier than the largest full-grown 
oak. It was covered with fresh, green leaves, and was 
heavily laden with clusters of fruit, red and rich- 
looking like grapes, but much larger. 

He remained resting for a time on the hill, being 
much wearied after his flight, and at last he began to 
eat the fruit off the branch. After watching him for 
some time longer, Maildun ventured warily towards 
the hillock, to see whether he was inclined to mischief; 
but the bird showed no disposition to harm him. 
This emboldened the others, and they all followed 
their chief. 

The whole crew now marched in a body round the 
bird, headed by Maildun, with their shields raised; 
and as he still made no stir, one of the men, by 
Maildun's directions, went straight in front of him, 
and brought away some of the fruit from the branch 
which he still held in his talons. But the bird went 
on plucking and eating his fruit, and never took the 
least notice. 

On the evening of that same day, as the men sat 
looking over the sea to the south-west, where the great 


bird first appeared to them, they saw in the distance 
two others, quite as large, coming slowly towards them 
from the very same point. On they came, flying at a 
vast height, nearer and nearer, till at last they swooped 
down and alighted on the hillock in front of the first 
bird, one on each side. 

Although they were plainly much younger than the 
other, they seemed very tired, and took a long rest. 
Then, shaking their wings, they began picking the old 
bird all over, body, wings, and head, plucking out the 
old feathers and the decayed quill points, and smooth- 
ing down his plumage with their great beaks. After 
this had gone on for some time, the three began 
plucking the fruit ofi' the branch, and they ate till 
they were satisfied. 

Next morning, the two birds began at the very 
same work, picking and arranging the feathers of the 
old bird as before; and at midday they ceased, and 
began again to eat the fruit, throwing the stones and 
what they did not eat of the pulp, into the lake, till the 
water became red like wine. After this the old bird 
plunged into the lake and remained in it, washing 
himself, till evening, when he again flew up on the 
hillock, but perched on a different part of it, to avoid 
touching and defiling himself with the old feathers 
and the other traces of age and decay, which the 
younger birds had removed from him. 

On the morning of the third day, the two younger 
birds set about arranging his feathers for the third 
time ; and on this occasion they applied themselves to 


their task in a manner much more careful and par- 
ticular than before, smoothing the plumes with the 
nicest touches, and arranging them in beautiful lines 
and glossy tufts and ridges. And so they continued 
without the least pause till midday, when they ceased. 
Then, after resting for a little while, they opened their 
great wings, rose into the air, and flew away swiftly 
towards the south-west, till the men lost sight of them 
in the distance. 

Meantime the old bird, after the others had left, 
continued to smooth and plume his feathers till even- 
ing; then, shaking his wings, he rose up, and flew 
three times round the island, as if to try his strength. 
And now the men observed that he had lost all the 
appearances of old age : his feathers were thick and 
glossy, his head was erect and his eye bright, and he 
flew with quite as much power and swiftness as the 
others. Alighting for the last time on the hillock, 
after resting a little, he rose again, and turning his 
flight after the other two, to the point from which he 
had come, he was soon lost to view, and the voyagers 
saw no more of him. 

It now appeared very clear to Maildun and his 
companions that this bird had undergone a renewal of 
youth from old age, according to the word of the 
prophet, which says, " Thy youth shall be renewed a? 
the eagle." Diuran, seeing this great wonder, said to 
his companions 

"Let us also bathe in the lake, and we shall 
obtain a renewal of youth like the bird." 


Bat they said, " Not so, for the bird has left the 
poison of his old age and decay in the water." 

Diuran, however, would have his own way; and 
he told them he was resolved to try the virtue of the 
water, and that they might follow his example or not, 
whichever they pleased. So he plunged in and swam 
about for some time, after which he took a little of 
the water and mixed it in his mouth ; and in the end 
he swallowed a small quantity. He then came out 
perfectly sound and whole ; and he remained so ever 
after, for as long as he lived he never lost a tooth 
or had a grey hair, and he suffered not from disease 
or bodily weakness of any kind. But none of the 
others ventured in. 

The voyagers, having remained long enough on 
this island, stored in their curragh a large quantity 
of the flesh of the sheep ; and after bidding farewell 
to the ancient cleric, they sought the ocean once 

Now once again, when winds and tide combine, 

The flying curragh cleaves the crested brine. 

Far to the west an island rose to view, 

With verdant plains, clear streams, and mountains blue. 

An aged hermit, bred in Erin's land, 

Welcomed and blessed the chieftain and his band ; 

Brought food and drink, and bade them rest awhile, 

And view the wonders of that lovely isle. 

Lo, from the sea, three birds of monstrous size, 
With vast wings slowly moving, cleave the skies; 
And as they nearer drew, the sailors saw 
One held a fruit branch firmly in his claw. 
Down by the clear, mysterious lake they light, 
Eat from the branch, and rest them from their flight. 


The aged bird, with plnmes decayed and thin, 
Paused on the brink awhile, then, plunging in, 
He bath'd and smooth'd his feathers o'er and o'er, 
Shook his great wings and rested on the shore. 

Now while the other two his plumes arrange, 
Through all his frame appears a wondrous change : 
His eyes grow bright, his head erect and bold, 
His glossy plumage shines like burnished gold ; 
Free from old age, his glorious form expands ; 
In radiant youth and beauty proud he stands ! 

Such was the gift that lake of wonder gave ; 
Such was the virtue of its mystic wave. 



THEY next came to an island with a great plain ex- 
tending over its whole surface. They saw a vast 
multitude of people on it, engaged in sundry youthful 
games, and all continually laughing. The voyagers 
cast lots wjio should go to examine the island; an<J 
the lot fell upon Maildun's third foster brother. 

The moment he landed he went among the others 
and joined in their pastimes and in their laughter, 
as if he had been among them all his life. His com- 
panions waited for him a very long time, but were 
afraid to venture to land after him ; and at last, as 
there seemed no chance of his returning, they left 
him and sailed away. 




THEY came now to a small island with a high rampart 
of fire all round it; and that rampart revolved con- 
tinually round the island. There was one large open 
door in the rampart; and whenever the door, in its 
evolution, came in front of them, they could see almost 
the whole island through it, and all that was therein. 

And this is what they saw : A great number of 
people, beautiful and glorious-looking, wearing rich 
garments adorned and radiant all over, feasting 
joyously, and drinking from embossed vessels of red 
g6ld which they held in their hands. The voyagers 
heard also their cheerful, festive songs ; and they 
marvelled greatly, and their hearts were full of glad- 
ness at aJl the happiness they saw and heard. But 
they did not venture to land. 



A LITTLE time after leaving this, they saw something 
a long way off towards the south, which at first they 
took to be a large white bird floating on the sea, and 
rising and falling with the waves; but on turning 
their curragh towards it for a nearer view, they found 


that it was a man. He was very old, so old that he 
waw covered all over with long, white hair, which 
grew from his body ; and he was standing on a broad, 
bare rock, and kept continually throwing himself on 
his knees, and never ceased praying. 

When they saw that he was a holy man, they 
asked and received his blessing; after which they 
began to converse with him ; and they inquired who 
he was, and how he had come to that rock. Then the 
old man gave them the following account : 

"I was born and bred in the island of Tory.* 
When I grew up to be a man, I was cook to the 
brotherhood of the monastery ; and a wicked cook 1 
was ; for every day I sold part of the food intrusted 
to, me, and secretly bought many choice and rare 
things with the money. Worse even than this I 
did; I made secret passages underground into the 
church and into the houses belonging to it, and I 
stole from time to time great quantities of golden 
vestments, book- covers adorned with brass and gold, 
and other holy and precious things. 

" I soon became very rich, and had my rooms filled 
with costly couches, with clothes of every colour, both 
linen and woollen, with brazen pitchers and caldrons, 
and with brooches and armlets of gold. Nothing was 
wanting in my house, of furniture and ornament, that 
a person in a high rank of life might be expected to 
have ; and I became very proud and overbearing. 

* Tory Island, off the coast of Donegal, where there was a 
monastery dedicated to St. Columkille. 


" One day, I was sent to dig a grave for the body 
of a rustic that had been brought from the mainland 
to be buried on the island. I went and fixed on a 
spot in the little graveyard; but as soon as I had 
set to work, I heard a voice speaking down deep in 
the earth beneath my feet 

" ' Do not dig this grave ! ' 

" I paused for a moment, startled ; but, recovering 
myself, I gave no further heed to the mysterious 
words, and again I began to dig. The moment I did 
so, I heard the same voice, even more plainly than 

" ' Do not dig this grave ! I am a devout and holy 
person, and my body is lean and light; do not put 
the heavy, pampered body of that sinner down upon 
me !' 

"But I answered, in the excess of my pride and 
obstinacy, ' I will certainly dig this grave ; and I will 
bury this body down on you ! ' 

" ' If you put that body down on me, the flesh will 
fall off your bones, and you will die, and be sent to 
the infernal pit at the end of three days ; and, more- 
over, the body will not remain where you put it.' 

" ' What will you give me,' I asked, ' if I do not 
bury the corpse on you ? ' 

" ' Everlasting life in heaven/ replied the voice. 

" ' How do you know this ; and how am I to be 
sure of it ? ' I inquired. 

" And the voice answered me, ' The grave you are 
digging is clay. Observe now whether it will remain 


so, and then you will know the truth of what I tell 
you. And you will see that what I say will come to 
pass, and that you cannot bury that man on me, even 
if you should try to do so.' 

" These words were scarce ended, when the grave 
was turned into a mass of white sand before my face. 
And when I saw this, I brought the body away, and 
buried it elsewhere. 

"It happened, some time after, that I got a new 
curragh made, with the hides painted red all over ; and 
I went to sea in it. As I sailed by the shores an</ 
islands, I was so pleased with the view of the land 
and sea from, my curragh that I resolved to live 
altogether in it for some time ; and I brought on board 
all my treasures silver cups, gold bracelets, and orna- 
mented drinking-horns, and everything else, from the 
largest to the smallest article. 

" I enjoyed myself for a time, while the air was 
clear and the sea calm and smooth. But one day, the 
winds suddenly arose and a storm burst upon me, 
which carried me out to sea, so that I quite lost sight 
of land, and I knew not in what direction the curragh 
was drifting. After a time, the wind abated to a 
gentle gale, the sea became smooth, and the curragh 
sailed on as before, with a quiet, pleasant movement. 

"But suddenly, though the breeze continued to 
blow, I thought I could perceive that the curragh 
ceased moving, and, standing up to find out the cause, 
I saw with great surprise an old man not far off, 
sitting on the crest of a wave. 


" He spoke to me; and, as soon as I heard his voice, 
I knew it at once, but I could not at the moment call 
to mind where I had heard it before. And I became 
greatly troubled, and began to tremble, I knew not 

" ' Whither art thou going ? ' he asked. 

" ' I know not/ I replied ; ' but this I know, I 
am pleased with the smooth, gentle motion of my 
curragh over the waves.' 

" ' You would not be pleased,' replied the old man, 
' if you could see the troops that are at this moment 
around you.' 

" ' What troops do you speak of ? ' I asked. And 
he answered 

"'All the space round about you, as far as your 
view reaches over the sea, and upwards to the clouds, 
is one great towering mass of demons, on account of 
your avarice, your thefts, your pride, and your other 
crimes and vices.' 

" He then asked, ' Do you know why your 
curragh has stopped ? ' 

"I answered, 'No;' and he said, 'It has been 
stopped by me; and it will never move from that 
spot till you promise me to do what I shall ask 
of you.' 

"I replied that perhaps it was not in my power 
to grant his demand. 

" ' It is in your power,' he answered ; ' and if you 
refuse me, the torments of hell shall be your doom.' 

"He then came close to the curragh, and, laying 


his hands on me, he made me swear to do what he 

" ' What I ask is this/ said he ; ' that you throw 
into the sea this moment all the ill-gotten treasures 
you have in the curragh.' 

"This grieved me very much, and I replied, 'It 
is a pity that all these costly things should be lost.' 

" To which he answered, ' They will not go to loss ; 
a person will be sent to take charge of them. Now 
do as I say.' 

"So, greatly against my wishes, I threw all the 
beautiful precious articles overboard, keeping only 
a small wooden cup to drink from. 

"'You will now continue your voyage/ he said; 
' and the first solid ground your curragh reaches, there 
you are to stay.' 

" He then gave me seven cakes and a cup of watery 
whey as food for my voyage ; after which the curragh 
moved on, and I soon lost sight of him. And now I 
all at once recollected that the old man's voice was 
the same as the voice that I had heard come from the 
ground, when I was about to dig the grave for the 
body of the rustic. I was so astonished and troubled 
at this discovery, and so disturbed at the loss of ail 
my wealth, that I threw aside my oars, and gave my- 
self up altogether to the winds and currents, not caring 
whither I went; and for a long time I was tossed 
about on the waves, I knew not in what direction. 

" At last it seemed to me that my curragh ceased 
to move ; but I was not sure about it, for I could see 


no sign of land. Mindful, however, of what the old 
man had told me, that I was to stay wherever my 
curragh stopped, I looked round more carefully; and 
at last I saw, very near me, a small rock level with 
the surface, over which the waves were gently laugh- 
ing and tumbling. I stepped on to the rock ; and the 
moment I did so, the waves seemed to spring back, 
and the rock rose high over the level of the water; 
while the curragh drifted by and quickly disappeared, 
so that I never saw it after. This rock has been my 
abode from that time to the present day. 

"For the first seven years, I lived on the seven 
cakes and the cup of whey given me by the man who 
had sent me to the rock. At the end of that time 
the cakes were all gone ; and for three days I fasted, 
with nothing but the whey to wet my mouth. Late 
in the evening of the third day, an otter brought me 
a salmon out of the sea ; but though I suffered much 
from hunger, I could not bring myself to eat the fish 
raw, and it was washed back again into the waves. 

"I remained without food for three days longer' 
and in the afternoon of the third day, the otter 
returned with the salmon. And I saw another otter 
bring firewood ; and when he had piled it up on the 
rock, he blew it with his breath till it took fire and 
lighted up. And then I broiled the salmon and ate 
till I had satisfied my hunger. 

" The otter continued to bring me a salmon every 
day, and in this manner I lived for seven years longer. 
The rock also grew larger and larger daily, till it 


became the size you now see it. At the end of seven 
years, the otter ceased to bring me my salmon, and 
I fasted for three days. But at the end of the third 
day, I was sent half a cake of fine wheaten flour and 
a slice of fish ; and on the same day my cup of watery 
whey fell into the sea, and a cup of the same size, filled 
with good ale, was placed on the rock for me. 

" And so I have lived, praying and doing penance 
for my sins to this hour. Each day my drinking- 
vessel is filled with ale, and I am sent half a wheat- 
fiour cake and a slice of fish; and neither rain nor 
wind, nor heat, nor cold, is allowed to molest me on 
this rock." 

This was the end of the old man's history. In the 
evening of that day, each man of the crew received 
the same quantity of food that was sent to the old 
hermit himself, namely, half a cake and a slice of fish ; 
and they found in the vessel as much good ale as 
served them all. 

The next morning he said to them, "You shall 
all reach your own country in safety. And you, 
Maildun, you shall find in an island on your way, the 
very man that slew your father ; but you are neither 
to kill him nor take revenge on him in any way. 
As God has delivered you from the many dangers you 
have passed through, though you were very guilty, 
and well deserved death at His hands ; so you forgive 
your enemy the crime he committed against you." 

After this they took leave of the old man and 
sailed away. 



The storms may roar and the seas may rage, 
But here, on this bare, brown rook, 

I pray and repent and I tell my beads, 
Secure from the hurricane's shock. 

For the good, kind God, in pity to me, 
Holds out His protecting hand ; 

And cold nor heat nor storm nor sleet, 
Can molest me where I stand. 

I robbed the churches and wronged the poor, 

And grew richer day by day ; 
But now on this bare, brown ocean rock, 

A heavy penance I pay. 

A bloated sinner died unshrived, 
And they brought his corse to me 

" Go, dig the grave and bury the dead, 
And pray for the soul set free." 

I dug the grave, but my hands were stayed 
By a solemn and fearful sound, 

For the feeble tones of a dead man's voice 
Came up from the hollow ground ! 

The dead monk speaks up from the grave 

. Place not that pampered corse on 

For my bones are weak and thin ; 
I cannot bear the heavy weight 
Of a body defiled by sin. 

I was a meek and holy man ; 

I fasted and watched and prayed ; 
A sinner's corse would defile the clay 

Where my wasted body is laid 


The old hermit conUrwes his story 

The voice then ceased, and I heard no more 

Its hollow, beseeching tone ; 
Then I closed the grave, and left the old monk 

To rest in his coffin alone. 

My curragh sailed on the western main, 

And I saw, as 1 viewed the sea, 
A withered old mau upon a wave ; 

And he fixed his eyes on me. 

He spoke, and his voice my heart's blood froze, 

And I shook with horror and fear : 
'Twas the very voice of the dead old monk 

That sounded in mine ear ! 

The dead monk speaks again 

Far from my grave the sinner's corse 

In unhallowed clay lies deep ; 
And now in my coffin, undefiled, 

For ever in peace I sleep. 

Go, live and pray on the bare, brown rock, 

Far out in the stormy sea ; 
A heavy penance for heavy crimes, 

And heaven at last for thee! 

The old hermit ends his story 

And here I live from age to agef 

I pray and repent and fast ; 
An otter brings me food each day, 

And I hope for heaven at last. 

The tempests roar and the billows rage, 

But God holds forth His hand, 
And cold nor heat nor storm nor sleet, 

Can harm me where I stand. 




SOON after they saw a beautiful verdant island, with 
herds of oxen, cows, and sheep browsing all over its 
hills and valleys ; but no houses nor inhabitants were 
to be seen. And they rested for some time on this 
island, and ate the flesh of the cows and sheep. 

One day, while they were standing on a hill, a 
large falcon flew by ; and two of the crew, who hap- 
pened to look closely at him, cried out, in the hearing 
of Maildun 

" See that falcon ! he is surely like the falcons of 
Erin ! " 

"Watch him closely," cried Maildun; "and observe 
exactly in what direction he is flying ! " 

And they saw that he flew to the south-east, with- 
out turning or wavering. 

They went on board at once; and, having un- 
moored, they sailed to the south-east after the falcon. 
After rowing the whole day, they sighted land in the 
dusk of the evening, which seemed to them like the 
land of Erin. 




ON a near approach, they found it was a small island ; 
and now they recognised it as the very same island 
they had seen in the beginning of their voyage, in 
which they had heard the man in the great house 
boast that he had slain Maildun's father, and from 
which the storm had driven them out into the great 

They turned the prow of their vessel to the shore, 
landed, and went towards the house. It happened 
that at this very time the people of the house were 
seated at their evening meal ; and Maildun and his 
companions, as they stood outside, heard a part of 
their conversation. 

Said one to another, " It would not be well for us 
if we were now to see Maildun." 

"As to Maildun," answered another, "it is very well 
known that he was drowned long ago in the great 

" Do not be sure," observed a third ; " perchance 
he is the very man that may waken you up some 
morning from your sleep." 

" Supposing he came now," asks another, " what 
should we do ? " 

The head of the house now spoke in reply to 


the last question ; and Maildun at once knew his 

"I can easily answer that," said he. "Maildun has 
been for a long time suffering great afflictions and 
hardships ; and if he were to come now, though we 
were enemies once, I should certainly give him a 
welcome and a kind reception." 

When Maildun heard this he knocked at the door, 
and the door-keeper asked who was there ; to which 
Maildun made answer 

" It is I, Maildun, returned safely from all my 

The chief of the house then ordered the door to be 
opened ; and he went to meet Maildun, and brought 
himself and his companions into the house. They 
were joyfully welcomed by the whole household ; new 
garments were given to them ; and they feasted and 
rested, till they forgot their weariness and their 

They related all the wonders God had revealed to 
them in the course of their voyage, according to the 
word of the sage who says, " It will be a source of 
pleasure to remember these things at a future time." 

After they had remained here for some days, 
Maildun returned to his own country. And Diuran 
Lekerd took the five half-ounces of silver he had cut 
down from the great net at the Silver Pillar, and laid 
it, according to his promise, on the high altar of 




ONCE upon a time, a noble, warlike king ruled over 
Lochlann, 6 whose name was Colga of the Hard 
Weapons. On a certain occasion, this king held a 
meeting of his chief people, on the broad, green plain 
before his palace of Berva. 6 And when they were 
all gathered together, he spoke to them in a loud, 
clear voice, from where he sat high on his throne ; 
and he asked them whether they found any fault 
with the manner in which he ruled them, and 
whether they knew of anything deserving of blame 
in him as their sovereign lord and king. They 
replied, as if with the voice of one man, that they 
found no fault of any kind. 

* The quicken tree, or quickbeam, or mountain ash, or roan- 
tree; Gaelic, caerthainn. Many mystic virtues were anciently 
attributed to this tree. 


Then the king spoke again and said, "You see 
not as I see. Do you not know that I am called 
King of the Four Tribes of Lochlann, and of the 
Islands of the Sea ? And yet there is one island 
which acknowledges not my rule." 

And when they had asked which of the islanda 
he meant, he said 

"That island is Erin of the green hills. My 
forefathers, indeed, held sway over it, and many of 
our brave warriors died there in fight. There fell 
the great king, Balor of the Mighty Blows ; 9 his son 
Bres 9 also ; and his queen, Kethlenda of the Crooked 
Teeth; 9 there, too, fell Irann and Slana, sisters of 
the king ; and many others that I do not name. 
But though our hosts at last subdued the land and 
laid it under tribute, yet they held it not long; for 
the men of Erin arose and expelled our army, re- 
gaining their ancient freedom. 

" And now it is my desire that we once more sail 
bo Erin with a fleet and an army, to bring it under 
my power, and take, either by consent or by force, the 
tributes that are due to me by right. And we shall 
thereafter hold the island in subjection till the end 
of the world." 

The chiefs approved the counsel of the king, and 
the meeting broke up. 

Then the king made proclamation, and sent his 
swift scouts and couriers all over the land, to muster 
his fighting men, till he had assembled a mighty army 
in one place. 


And when they had made ready their curve-sided, 
white-sailed ships, and their strong, swift-gliding 
boats, the army embarked. And they raised their 
sails and plied their oars ; and they cleft the billowy, 
briny sea ; and the clear, cold winds whistled through 
their sails ; and they made neither stop nor stay, till 
they landed on the shore of the province of Ulad.* 

The King of Ireland at that time was Cormac Mac 
Art, 22 the grandson of Conn the Hundred-fighter. 18 
And when Cormac heard that a great fleet had come 
to Erin, and landed an army of foreigners, he straight- 
way sent tidings of the invasion to Allen f of the 
green hill-slopes, where lived Finn, 28 and the noble 
Fena 23 of the Gaels. 

When the king's messengers had told their tale, 
Finn despatched his trusty, swift-footed couriers to 
every part of Erin where he knew the Fena dwelt ; 
and he bade them to say t that all should meet him 
at a certain place, near that part of the coast where 
the Lochlann army lay encamped. And he himself 
led the Fena of Leinster northwards to join the muster. 

They attacked the foreigners, and the foreigners 
were not slow to meet their onset; and the Fena 
were sore pressed in that battle, so that at one time 
the Lochlanns were like to prevail. 

Oscar, the son of Oisin, 28 when he saw his friends 
falling all round him, was grieved to the heart ; 

* Ulad, i.e. Ulster. 

t The Hill of Allen, in the county Kildare, where Finn had hia 
palaee. (See note 23 at the end.) 


and he rested for a space to gather his wrath and 
his strength. Then, renewing the fight, he rushed 
with fury towards the standard of Colga, the Loch- 
lann king, dealing havoc and slaughter among those 
foreigners that stood in his track. The king saw 
Oscar approach, and met him; and they fought a 
deadly battle hand-to-hand. Soon their shields were 
rent, their hard helmets were dinted with sword- 
blows, their armour was pierced in many places, and 
their flesh was torn with deep wounds. And the end 
of the fight was, that the king of the foreigners was 
slain by Oscar, the son of Oisin. 

When the Lochlanns saw their king fall, they 
lost heart, and the battle went against them. But 
they fought on nevertheless, till evening, when their 
army entirely gave way, and fled from the field. 
And of all the nobles and princes and mighty chiefs 
who sailed to Erin on that expedition, not one was 
left alive, except the youngest son of the king, whose 
name was Midac. Him Finn spared on account of 
his youth ; with intent to bring him up in his own 

After the Fena had rested for a time, and buried 
their dead, they turned their faces southward, and 
marched slowly towards Allen, bringing their sick 
and wounded companions. And Finn placed Midac 
among the household of Allen, treating him honour- 
ably, and giving him servants and tutors. Moreover, 
he enlisted him in the Fena, and gave him a high 
post as befitted a prince. 




AFTER this things went on as before, while Midac 
grew up towards manhood, and hunted and feasted 
with the Fena, and fought with them when they 
fought. But he never lost an opportunity of making 
himself acquainted with all their haunts and hunting- 
grounds, their palaces and fortresses, and in particular 
with their manner of carrying on war. 

It happened one day that Finn and some of his 
leading chiefs were in council, considering sundry 
matters, especially the state and condition of the 
Fena; and each chief was commanded by Finn to 
speak, and give his opinion or advice on anything 
that he deemed weighty enough to be debated by 
the meeting. 

And after many had spoken, Conan Mail, the son 
of Morna, stood up and said 

" It seems to me, king, that you and I and the 
Fena in general, are now in great danger. For you 
have in your house, and mixing with your people, a 
young man who has good cause of enmity towards 
you ; that is to say, Midac, the son of the king of 
Lochlann. For was it not by you that his father and 
brothers and many of his friends were slain ? Now I 
notice that this young prince is silent and distant, and 
talks little to those around him. Moreover, I see that 


day after day he takes much pains to know all matters 
relating to the Fena ; and as he has friends in Lochlann, 
mighty men with armies and ships, I fear me the day 
may come when this prince will use his knowledge to 
our destruction." 

The king said that all this was quite true, and he 
asked Conan to .give his opinion as to what should be 

" What I advise in the matter is this," said Conan, 
" that Midac be not allowed to abide any longer in 
the palace of Allen. But as it is meet that he should 
be treated in a manner becoming a prince, let him be 
given a tract of land for himself in some other part of 
Erin, with a home and a household of his own. Then 
shall we be freed from his presence, and he can no 
longer listen to our counsels, and learn all our secrets 
and all our plans." 

This speech seemed to Finn and the other chiefs 
reasonable and prudent, and they agreed to follow the 
advice of Conan Mail. 

Accordingly Finn sent for the prince, and said to 

" Thou knowest, Midac, that thou hast been brought 
up from boyhood in my household, and that thou hast 
been dealt with in every way as becomes a prince. 
Now thou art a man, and standest in no further need 
of instruction, for thou hast learned everything needful 
for a prince and for a champion of the Fena ; and 
it is not meet that thou shouldst abide longer in the 
house of another. Choose, therefore, the two cantreds 


that please thee best in all Erin, and they shall be 
given to thee and to thy descendants for ever as a 
patrimony. There thou shalt build houses and a home- 
stead for thyself, and I will help thee with men and 
with cattle and with all things else necessary." 

Midac listened in silence ; and when the king had 
done speaking, he replied in a cold and distant manner 
and in few words, that the proposal was reasonable 
and proper, and pleased him well. And thereupon he 
chose the rich cantred of Kenri on the Shannon, and 
the cantred of the Islands lying next to it on the 
north, at the other side of the river.* 

Now Midac had good reasons for choosing these 
two territories beyond^ all others in Erin. For the 
river opens out between them like a great sea, in 
which are many islands and sheltered harbours, where 
ships might anchor in safety; and he hoped to bring a 
fleet and an army into Erin some day, to avenge on 
Finn and the Fena the defeats they had inflicted on his 
countrymen, and above all, the death of his father and 
brothers. And being bent on treachery, he could not 
have chosen in all Erin a territory better suited for 
carrying out his secret designs. 

So these two cantreds were bestowed on Midac. 
Finn gave him also much cattle and wealth of all 
kinds ; so that when his houses were built, and when 

* The oantreds of Kenri and Islands are now two baronies : the 
former the barony of Kenry, in Limerick, a little below the city ; 
the latter the barony of Islands, in Clare, on the opposite side of 
the Shannon, including the mouth of the river Fergus, with its 
numerous islands, from which the barony has its name. 


he was settled in his new territory, with his servants 
and his cattle and his wealth all round him, there 
was no brugaid* in Erin richer or more prosperous 
than he. 

For fourteen years Midac lived in his new home, 
growing richer every year. But the Fena knew 
nothing of his way of. life, for he kept himself apart, 
and none of his old acquaintances visited him. And 
though he was enrolled in the ranks of the Fena, he 
never, during all that time, invited one of them to his 
house, or offered them food or drink or entertainment 
of any kind. 

One day, Finn and the Fena went to hunt in the 
district of Ferrnorc,t and over the plains of Hy Conall 
Gavra.f And when all was arranged and the chase 
about to begin, Finn himself, and a few of his com- 
panions, went to the top of the hill of Knockfierna } to 
see the sport ; while the main body of the Fena scat- 
tered themselves over the plain with their dogs and 
attendants, to start the deer and the wild boars and 
all the other game of the forest. 

Then Finn's people pitched their tents, and made 
soft couches of rushes and heather, and dug cook- 
ing-places 24 ; for they intended the hill to be the 

* Brugaid, a sort of local officer, who was allowed a tract of land 
free, on condition that he maintained a large establishment as a house 
of public hospitality. Many of the brugaids were very rich. 

t Fermoro and Hy Conall Gavra are now the baronies of Upper 
and Lower Connello, in the county Limerick. 

J Knockfierna, a conspicuous hill, celebrated for its fairy lore, 
near Croom, in the county Limerick; very near Kenri, Midac's 


resting-place of all who chose to rest, till the chase was 

After Finn and his companions had sat for some 
time on the hill, they saw a tall warrior coming 
towards them, armed in full battle array. He wore a 
splendid coat of mail of Lochlann workmanship, and 
over it a mantle of fine satin dyed in divers colours. 
A broad shield hung on his left shoulder, and his 
helmet glittered in the morning sun like polished 
silver. At his left side hung a long sword, with 
golden hilt and enamelled sheath ; and he held in 
his right hand his two long, polished, death-dealing 
spears. His figure and gait were wonderfully 
majestic, and as he came near, he saluted the king 
in stately and courteous words. 

Finn returned the salutation, and spoke with him 
for a while ; and at length he asked him whence he 
had come, and if he had brought any tidinga 

" As to the place I came from," he answered, " that 
need not be spoken of; and for news, I have nothing 
to tell except that I am a ferdana,* and that I have 
come to thee, king of the Fena, with a poem." 

"Methinks, indeed," replied Finn, "that conflict 
and battle are the poetry you profess ; for never have 
I seen a hero more noble in mien and feature." 

"I am a ferdana nevertheless," answered the 
stranger ; " and if thou dost not forbid me, I will prove 
it by reciting a poem I have brought for thee." 

" A mountain-top is not the place for poetry," said 

* Ferdana, a poet. 


Finn; "and moreover, there is now no opportunity 
either for reciting or listening. For I and these few 
companions of mine have come to sit here that we may 
view the chase, and listen to the eager shouts of the 
men, and the sweet cry of the hounds. 

" But if you are, as you say," continued Finn, " a 
ferdana, remain here with us till the chase is ended ; 
and then you shall come with me to one of our 
palaces, where I shall listen to your poem, and bestow 
on you such gifts as are meet for a poet of your 

But the strange champion answered, "It is not 
my wish to go to your palace ; and I now put you 
under gesa, 12 which true heroes do not suffer, that you 
listen to my poem, and that you find out and explain 
its meaning." 

"Well then," said Finn, "let there be no further 
delay ; repeat your poem." 

So the hero recited the following verse : 

I saw a honse by a river's shore, 

Famed through Erin in days of yore, 

Radiant with sparkling gems all o'er, 

Its lord deep skilled in magical lore ; 

No conqueror ever defiled its floor ; 

No spoiler can rive its golden store ; 

Fire cannot burn its battlements hoar ; 

Safe it stands when the torrents pour ; 

Feasting and joy for evermore, 

To all who enter its open door ! 

Now if thou hast learned a champion's lore, 
Tell me the name of that mansion hoar, 
With roof of crystal and marble floor 
The mansion I saw by the river's shore. 


" I can explain that poem," said Finn. " The man- 
sion you saw is Bruga of the Boyne,* the fairy palace 
of Angus, the Dedannan prince, son of the Dagda, 
which is open to all who wish to partake of its feasts 
and its enjoyments. It cannot be burned by fire, or 
drowned by water, or spoiled by robbers, on account 
of the great power of its lord and master ; for there is 
not now, and there never was, and there never shall 
be, in Erin, a man more skilled in magic arts than 
Angus of the Bruga." 

" That is the sense of my poem," said the stranger ; 
" and now listen to this other, and explain it to me if 
thou canst " 

I saw to the south a bright-faced queen, 
With couch of crystal and robe of green ; 
A numerous offspring, sprightly and small, 
Plain through her skin you can see them all j 
Slowly she moves, and yet her speed 
Exceeds the pace of the swiftest steed ! 

Now tell me the name of that wondrous queen, 
With her couch of crystal and robe of green, f 

"I understand the sense of that poem also," said 
Finn. "The queen you saw is the river Boyne, 
which flows by the south side of the palace of Bruga. 
Her couch of crystal is the sandy bed of the river ; and 
her robe of green the grassy plain of Bregia, I through 

* Bruga of the Boyne. (See note, page 62.) 

t The poets were much given to proposing poetical puzzles of this 
kind ; and it was considered a mark of superior education, and of 
great acuteness in a champion to be able to explain them. (For 
another example, see the enigmatical verse about the skin of the pig, 
in the story of " The Children of Turenn," page 69.) 

J Bregia or Magh Breagh, the ancient name of the plain extending 
from the Liffey northwards to the borders of the county Louth. (For 


which it flows. Her children, which you can see 
through her skin, are the speckled salmon, the lively, 
pretty trout, and all the other fish that swim in the 
clear water of the river. The river flows slowly indeed 
but its waters traverse the whole world in seven years, 
which is more than the swiftest steed can do.". 

" These are my poems," said the champion ; " and 
thou hast truly explained their meaning." 

" And now," said Finn, " as I have listened to thy 
poetry and explained it, tell us, I pray thee, who thou 
art and whence thou hast come ; for I marvel much 
that so noble a champion should live in any of the five 
provinces of Erin without being known to me and my 

Then Conan Mail spoke. ' " Thou art, king, the 
wisest and most far-seeing of the Fena, and thou hast 
unravelled and explained the hard poetical puzzles of 
this champion. Yet, on the present occasion, thou 
knowest not a friend from a foe ; for this man is 
Midac, whom thou didst bring up with much honour 
in thine own house, and afterwards made rich, but 
who is now thy bitter enemy, and the enemy of all 
the Fena. Here he has lived for fourteen years, 
without fellowship or communication with his former 
companions. And though he is enrolled in the order 
of the Fena, he has never, during all that time, invited 
thee to a banquet, or come to see any of his old 
friends, 01 given food or entertainment to any of the 
.Fena-, either master or man.'' 

this name, see the author's "Irish Names of Places," Series II. 
Part IV. chap. II. 


Midac answered, " If Finn and the Fena have 
not feasted with me, that is none of my fault ; for my 
house has never been without a banquet fit for either 
king or chief; but you never came to partake of it. 
I did not, indeed, send you an invitation ; but that you 
should not have waited for, seeing that I was one of 
the Fena, and that I was brought up in your own 
household. Howbeit, let that pass. I have now a 
feast ready, in all respects worthy of a king; and I 
put you under gesa that you and the chiefs that are 
here with you, come this night to partake of it. I 
have two palaces, and in each there is a banquet. One 
is the Palace of the Island, which stands on the sea ; 
and the other is the Palace of the Quicken Trees, which 
is a little way off' from this hill ; and it is to this that 
I wish you to come." 

Finn consented ; and Midac, after he had pointed 
out the way to the Palace of the Quicken Trees, left 
them, saying he would go before, that he might have 
things in readiness when they should arrive. 



FINN now held council with his companions, and they 
agreed that the king's son, Oisin, and five other chiefs, 
with their followers, should tarry on the hill till the 


hunting party returned, while Finn went to the palace 
with the rest. 

And it was arranged that Finn should send back 
word immediately to the party on the hill, how he 
fared; and that Oisin and the others were to follow 
him to the palace when the hunting party had 

Those that remained with Oisin were Dermat 
O'Dyna ; Fatha Conan, the son of the son of Conn ; 
Kylta Mac Ronan ; Ficna, the son of Finn ; and Innsa, 
the son of Swena Selga. 

And of those who went with Finn to the Palace of 
the Quicken Trees, the chief were Gaul Mac Morna ; 
Dathkeen the Strong-limbed; Mac Luga of the Red 
Hand ; Glas Mac Encarda from Beara ; the two sons 
of Aed the Lesser, son of Finn ; Racad and Dalgus, the 
two kings of Leinster ; Angus Mac Bresal Bola ; and 
the two leaders of the Connaught Fena, namely, Mac- 
na-Corra and Corr the Swift-footed. 

As Finn and his party came nigh to the palace, 
they were amazed at its size and splendour ; and they 
wondered greatly that they had never seen it before. 
It stood on a level green, which was surrounded by a 
light plantation of quicken trees, all covered with 
clusters of scarlet berries. At one side of the little 
plain, very near the palace, was a broad river, with 
a rocky bank at the near side, and a steep pathway 
leading down to a ford. 

But what surprised then: most was that all was 
lonely and silent not a living soul could they see in 


any direction ; and Finn, fearing some foul play, would 
have turned back, only that he bethought him of his 
gesa and his promise. The great door was wide open, 
and Conan went in before the others; and after 
viewing the banqueting hall, he came out quite 
enraptured with what he had seen. He praised the 
beauty and perfect arrangement of everything, and 
told his companions that no other king or chief in all 
Erin had a banqueting hall to match the hall of 
Midac, the son of Colga. They all now entered, but 
they found no one neither host nor guests nor 

As they gazed around, they thought they had 
never seen a banquet hall so splendid. A great fire 
burned brightly in the middle, without any smoke, 
and sent forth a sweet perfume, which filled the whole 
room with fragrance, and cheered and delighted the 
heroes. Couches were placed all round, with rich 
coverlets and rugs, and soft, glossy furs. The curved 
walls were of wood,* close-jointed and polished like 
ivory; and each board was painted differently from 
those above and below ; so that the sides of the room, 
from floor to roof, were all radiant with a wonderful 
variety of colours. 

Still seeing no one, they seated themselves on the 
couches and rugs. Presently a door opened, and 
Midac walked into the room. He stood for a few 
moments before the heroes, and looked at them one 

* The houses of the ancient Irish were circular, and generally 
made of wood. 


after another, but never spoke one word ; then, turning 
round, he went out and shut the great door behind 

Finn and his friends were much surprised at this ; 
however, they said nothing, but remained resting as 
they were for some time, expecting Midac's return. 
Still no one came, and at length Finn spoke 

"We have been invited here, my friends, to a 
banquet; and it seems to me very strange that we 
should be left so long without attendance, and without 
either food or drink Perhaps, indeed, Midac's attend- 
ants have made some mistake, and that the feast 
intended for this palace has been prepared in the 
Palace of the Island. But I wonder greatly that such 
a thing should have happened." 

" I see something more wonderful than that," said 
Gaul Mac Morna ; " for lo, the fire, which was clear 
and smokeless when we first saw it, and which 
smelled more sweetly than the flowers of the plain, 
now fills the hall with a foul stench, and sends up 
a great cloud of black, sooty smoke ! " 

" I see something more wonderful than that," said 
Glas Mac Encarda; "for the boards in the walls of 
this banquet hall, which were smooth and close- 
jointed and glorious all over with bright colours when 
we came, are now nothing but rough planks, clumsily 
fastened together with tough quicken tree withes, and 
as rude and unshapen as if they had been hacked and 
hewed with a blunt axe ! " 

"I see something more wonderful than that," said 


Foilan, the son of Aed the Lesser ; " for this palace, 
which had seven great doors when we came in, all 
wide open, and looking pleasantly towards the sun- 
shine, has now only one small, narrow door, close 
fastened, and facing straight to the north ! " 

" I see something more wonderful than that," said 
Con an Mail; "for the rich rugs and furs and the 
soft couches, which were under us when we sat here 
first, are all gone, not as much as a fragment or a 
thread remaining ; and we are now sitting on the 
bare, damp earth, which feels as cold as the snow 
of one night ! " * 

Then Finn again spoke. " You know, my friends, 
that I never tarry in a house having only one door. 
Let one of you then, arise, and break open that 
narrow door, so that we may go forth from this foul, 
smoky den ! " 

" That shall be done," cried Conan ; and, so saying, 
he seized his long spear, and, planting it on the floor, 
point downwards, he attempted to spring to his feet. 
But he found that he was not able to move, and 
turning to his companions, he cried out with a groan 
of anguish 

" Alas, my friends ! I see now something more 
wonderful than all; for I am firmly fixed by some 
druidical spell to the cold clay floor of the Palace oi 
the Quicken Trees ! " 

* " As cold as the snow of one night ; " " As white as the snow 
of one night," are usual comparisons in Gaelic. The first night's snow 
aeems particularly cold and white when you see it in the morning 
on account of the contrast with the green fields of the day before. 


And immediately all the others found themselves, 
in like manner, fixed where they sat. And they 
were silent for a time, being quite confounded and 
overwhelmed with fear and anguish. 

At length Gaul spoke, and said, " It seems clear. 

king, that Midac has planned this treachery, and 
that danger lies before us. I wish, then, that you 
would place your thumb under your tooth of know- 
ledge, 25 and let us know the truth ; so that we may 
at once consider as to the best means of escaping from 
this strait." 

Whereupon Finn placed his thumb under his 
tooth of knowledge, and mused for a little while. 
Then suddenly withdrawing his thumb, he sank 
back in his seat and groaned aloud. 

" May it be the will of the gods," said Gaul, " that 
it is the pain of thy thumb that has caused thee to 
utter that groan ! " 

" Alas ! not so," replied Finn. " I grieve that my 
death is near, and the death of these dear companions ' 
For fourteen years has Midac, the son of the king of 
Lochlann, been plotting against us ; and now at last 
he has caught us in this treacherous snare, from which 

1 can see no escape. 

" For in the Palace of the Island there is, at this 
moment, an army of foreigners, whom Midac has 
brought hither for our destruction. Chief over all 
is Sinsar of the Battles, from Greece, the Monarch of 
the Worid, who has under his command sixteen war- 
like princes, with many others of lesser note. Next 


to Sinsar is his son, Borba the Haughty, who com- 
mands also a number of fierce and hardy knights. 

" There are, besides, the three kings of the Island 
of the Torrent, large-bodied and bloodthirsty, like 
three furious dragons, who have never yet yielded to 
an enemy on the field of battle. It is these who, by 
their sorcery, have fixed us here ; for this cold clay 
that we sit on is part of the soil of the enchanted 
Island of the Torrent, which they brought hither, 
and placed here with foul spells. Moreover, the 
enchantment that binds us to this floor can never 
be broken unless the blood of these kings be sprinkled 
on the clay. And very soon some of Sinsar's 
warriors will come over from the Palace of the 
Island, to slay us all, while we are fixed here help- 
less, and unable to raise a hand in our own defence." 

Full of alarm and anguish were the heroes when 
they heard these tidings. And some began to shed 
bitter tears in silence, and some lamented aloud. 
But Finn again spoke and said 

"It becomes us not, my friends, being heroes, to 
weep and wail like women, even though we are in 
danger of death ; for tears and lamentations will avail 
us nothing. Let us rather sound the Dord-Fian,* 
sweetly and plaintively, according to our wont, that 
it may be a comfort to us before we die." 

So they ceased weeping, and, joining all together, 
they sounded the Dord-Fian in a slow, sad strain. 

* Dord-Fian, or Dord-Fiansa, a sort of musical war-cry, usually 
performed by several persons in chorus. 




Now let us speak of Oisin, and the party who 
tarried with him on the hill of Knockfierna. When 
he found that his father Finn had not sent back a 
messenger as he had promised, though the night was 
now drawing nigh, he began to fear that something 
was wrong ; and he said to his companions 

" I marvel much that we have got no news from 
the king, how he and his companions have fared in 
the Palace of the Quicken Trees. It is clear to me 
that he would have fulfilled his promise to send us 
word, if he had not been hindered by some unforeseen 
difficulty. Now, therefore, I wish to know who will 
go to the palace and bring me back tidings." 

Ficna, the son of Finn, stood forth and offered 
to go ; and Finn's foster son, Innsa, the son of Swena 
Selga, said he would go with him. 

They both set out at once, and as they travelled 
with speed, they soon reached the plain on which 
stood the Palace of the Quicken Trees ; and now the 
night was darkening around them. As they came 
near to the palace, they marvelled to hear the loud, 
slow strains of the Dord-Fian; and Innsa exclaimed 


"Things go well with our friends, seeing that 
they are amusing themselves with the Dord-Fian ! " 

But Ficna, who guessed more truly how things 
really stood, replied 

" It is my opinion, friend, that matters are nol 
so pleasant with them as you think ; for it is only 
in time of trouble or danger that Finn is wont to 
have the Dord-Fian sounded in a manner so slow 
and sad." 

While they talked in this wise, it chanced that 
the Dord-Fian ceased for a little space; and Finn 
hearing the low hum of conversation outside, asked 
was that the voice of Ficna. And when Ficna 
answered, " Yes," Finn said to him , 

" Come not nearer, my son ; for this place teems 
with dangerous spells. We have been decoyed hither 
by Midac, and we are all held here by the foul sorcery 
of the three kings of the Island of the Torrent." 

And thereupon Finn told him the whole story 
of the treachery that had been wrought on them, 
from beginning to end; and he told him also that 
nothing could free them but the blood of those three 
kings sprinkled on the clay. 

Then he asked who the second man was whom 
he had heard conversing with Ficna ; and when he 
was told that it was Innsa, the son of Swena Selga, 
he addressed Ficna earnestly 

" Fly, my son, from this fatal place ! Fly, and save 
my foster child from the treacherous swords of the 
foreigners ; for they are already on their way hither ! " 


But Innsa quickly answered, " That I will never 
do. It would, indeed, be an ungrateful return to a 
kind foster father, to leave thee now in deadly strait, 
and seek my own safety." 

And Ficna spoke in a like strain. 

Then Finn said, "Be it so, my sons; but a sore 
trial awaits you. Those who come hither from the 
Palace of the Island must needs pass the ford under 
the shadow of these walls. Now this ford is rugged 
and hard to be crossed ; and one good man, standing 
in the steep, narro , entrance at the hither side, might 
dispute the passage for a time against many. Go 
now, and defend this ford j and haply some help may 
come in time." 

So both went to the ford. And when they had 
viewed it carefully, Ficna, seeing that one man 
might defend it for a short time almost as well as 
two, said to Innsa 

" Stay thou here to guard the ford for a little time, 
while I go to the Palace of the Island to see how the 
foreigners might be attacked. Haply, too, I may 
meet with the party coming hither, and decoy them 
on some other track." 

And Innsa consented ; and Ficna set out straight- 
way for the Palace of the Island. 

Now as to the Palace of the Island. When Midac 
returned in the morning, and told how Finn and his 
people were held safe in the Palace of the Quicken 
Trees, the foreigners were in great joy. And they 


feasted and drank and were meriy till evening ; when 
an Irla * of the King of the World spoke in secret 
to his brother, and said 

" I will go now to the Palace of the Quicken Trees, 
and I will bring hither the head of Finn the son of 
Cumal ; and I shall gain thereby much renown, and 
shall be honoured by the King of the World." 

So he -went, bringing with him a goodly number 
of his own knights ; and nothing is told of what 
befell them till they arrived at the brink of the ford 
under the Palace of the Quicken Trees. Looking 
across through the darkness, the Irla thought he saw 
a warrior standing at the other brink ; and he called 
aloud to ask who was there, and whether he belonged 
to the noble or the ignoble races of the world. 

And when Innsa answered that he belonged to the 
household of Finn, the son of Cumal, the Irla said 

" Lo, we are going to the Palace of the Quicken 
Trees, to bring Finn's head to the King of the World ; 
and thou shalt come with us and lead us to the door." 

" That, indeed," replied Innsa, " would be a strange 
way for a champion to act who has been sent hither 
by Finn to guard this ford. I will not allow any foe 
to pass of that be sure ; and I warn you that you 
come not to my side of the ford ! " 

At this the Irla said to his knights, "Force the 
ford: then shall we see if yonder hero can fight as 
well as he threatens." 

And at the word, they rushed through the water, 

* Irla, i.e. an earl, a chief. 


as many as could find room. But only one or two at 
a time could attack ; and the young champion struck 
them down right and left as fast as they came up, 
till the ford became encumbered with their bodies. 

And when the conflict had lasted for a long time, 
and when they found that they could not dislodge 
him, the few that remained retired across the ford; 
and Innsa was fain to rest after his long combat. 

But the Irla, seeing so many of his knights slain, 
was mad with wrath ; and, snatching up his sword 
and shield, he attacked Innsa ; and they fought a long 
and bloody fight. 

Now the Iiia was fresh and strong, while Innsa 
was weary and sore wounded ; and at length the 
young hero fell in the ford, and the Irla beheaded 
him, and, exulting in his victory, brought the head 

Finn and his companions, as they sat in miserable 
plight in the Palace of the Quicken Trees, heard the 
clash of arms at the ford, and the shouts and groans 
of warriors ; and after a time all was still again ; and 
they knew not how the fight had ended. 

And now the Irla, thinking over the matter, 
deemed it unsafe to go to the Palace of the Quicken 
Trees without a larger body of knights ; so he re- 
turned towards the Palace of the Island, intending to 
bring Innsa's head to the King of the World. When 
he had come within a little distance of the palace, he 
met Ficna, who was then on his way back to the 
ford ; and seeing that he was coming from the Palace 


of the Island, he deemed that he was Qne of the 
knights of the King of the World. 

Ficna spoke to him, and asked whither he had 

" I come," replied the Trla, " from the ford of the 
Palace of the Quicken Trees. There, indeed, on oui 
way to the palace, to slay Finn the son of Cumal, we 
were met by a young champion, who defended the 
ford and slew my knights. But he fell at length 
beneath my sword ; and, lo, I have brought his head 
for a triumph to the King of the World !" 

Ficna took the head tenderly, and kissed the 
cheek thrice, and said, sorrowing 

" Alas, dear youth ! only this morning I saw the 
light of valour in those dim eyes, and the bloom of 
youth on that faded cheek ! " 

Then turning wrathfully to the Irla, he asked 

"Knowest thou to whom thou hast given the 
young warrior's head ? " 

And the Irla replied, " Hast thou not come from 
the Palace of the Island, and dost thou not belong to 
the host of the King of the World ? " 

"I am not one of his knights," answered Ficna; 
" and neither shalt thou be, after this hour ! " 

Whereupon they drew their swords, and fought 
where they stood ; and the foreign Irla fell by the 
avenging sword of Ficna, the son of Finn. Ficna 
beheaded him and returned to the ford, bringing the 
head, and also the head of Innsa. And when he had 
come to the ford, he made a grave of green sods on 


the bank, in which he laid the body and the head 
of Innsa, sometimes grieving for the youth, and some- 
times rejoicing that his death had been avenged. 

Then he went on to the Palace of the Quicken 
Trees, bringing the Ilia's head ; and when he had 
come nigh the door, he called aloud to Finn, who, 
impatient and full of anxious thoughts, asked 

" Tell us, Ficna, who fought the battle at the ford, 
and how it has ended." 

"Thine own foster son, Innsa, defended the ford 
against many foes, whose bodies now encumber the 

" And how is it now with my foster son ? " asked 

" He died where he fought," replied Ficna ; " for 
at the end, when he was weary and sore wounded, 
the foreign Irla attacked him, and slew him." 

" And thou, my son, didst thou stand by and see 
my nursling slain ? " 

" Truly I did not," answered Ficna. " Would that 
I had been there, and I would have defended and 
saved him! And even now he is well avenged ; for I 
met the Irla soon after, and lo, I have brought thee 
his head. Moreover, I buried thy nursling tenderly 
.in a grave of green sods by the ford." 

And Finn wept and said, " Victory and blessings 
be with thee, my son ! Never were children better than 
mine. Before I saw them, few were my possessions 
and small my consideration in Erin; but since they 
have grown up around me, I have been great and 


prosperous, till I fell by treachery into this evil plight. 
And now, Ficna, return and guard the ford, and 
peradventure our friends may send help in time." 
So Ficna went and sat on the brink of the ford. 



Now at the Palace of the Island, another Irk, whose 
name was Kironn, brother to him who had been slain 
by Ficna, spoke to some of his own followers 

" It is long since my brother left for the Palace 
of the Quicken Trees ; I fear me that he and his 
people have fared ill in their quest. And now I 
will go to seek for them." 

And he went, bringing a company of knights well 
armed ; and when they had come to the ford, they saw 
Ficna at the far side. Kironn called out and asked 
who he was, and asked also who had made such a 
slaughter in the ford. 

Ficna answered, " I am one of the household 
champions of Finn the son of Cumal, and he has sent 
me here to guard this ford. As to the slaughter of 
yonder knights, your question stirs my mind to wrath, 
and I warn you, if you pome to this side of the ford, 
you will get a reply, not in words, but in deeds." 


Then Kironn and his men rushed through the 
water, blind with rage, and struck wildly at Ficna. 
But the young hero watchfully parried their strokes 
and thrusts; and one after another they fell beneath 
his blows, till only a single man was left, who ran 
back with all speed to the Palace of the Island to tell 
the tale. And Ficna sat down on the brink, covered 
all over with wounds, and weary from the toil of 

When these tidings were brought to the palace, 
Midac was very wroth, and he said, " These men 
should not have gone to force the ford without my 
knowledge ; for they were far too few in number, and 
neither were they bold and hardy enough to meet 
Finn's valiant champions. I know these Fena vvell, 
and it is not to me a matter of surprise that the Irla 
and his people fell by them. 

" But I will now go with a choice party of my own 
brave men ; and I will cross the ford despite their 
guards, and slay Finn and all his companions in the 
Palace of the Quicken Trees. 

" Moreover, there is one man among them, namely, 
Conan Mail, 23 who of all the men of Erin has the largest 
appetite, and is fondest of choice eating and drinking. 
To him will I. bring savoury food and delicious drink, 
not, indeed, to delight him with eating and drinking, 
but that I may torment him with the sight and smell 
of what he cannot taste." 

So, having got the food, he set out with a chosen 
band ; and when he had arrived at the ford, he saw a 


warrior at the far side. He asked who he was, and 
finding that it was Fiona, he spoke guilefully to him. 

" Dear art thou to me, Ficna, dearer even than all 
the rest of Finn's household ; for during the time I lived 
among the Fena, you never used me ill, or lifted a hand 
to either man or dog belonging to me." 

But Ficna spurned his smooth words, and replied, 
" While you lived among the Fena, there was not a 
man among them that had less to do with you than I. 
But this I know, that you were treated kindly by all, 
especially by my father Finn, and you have repaid 
him by ingratitude and treachery." 

When Midac heard this speech he was filled with 
wrath, and no longer hiding his evil mind, he ordered 
Ficna with threats to leave the ford. But Ficna 
laughed with scorn, and replied 

"The task is easy, friend Midac, to dislodge a 
single champion ; and surely it is a small matter to you 
whether I stancT in this narrow pass or abandon my 
post. Come forward, then, you and your knights ; but 
here I will remain to receive you. I only regret you 
did not come sooner, while my blood was hot, and 
before my wounds grew stiff, when you would have 
got a better welcome ! " 

Then Midac ordered forward his knights, and they 
ran eagerly across the ford. But Ficna overthrew 
them with a mighty onset, like a hawk among a flight 
of small birds, or like a wolf among a flock of sheep. 
When Midac saw this, he buckled on his shield and 
took his sword. Then, treading warily over the rough 


rocks, and over the dead bodies of his knights, he 
confronted Ficna, and they attacked each other with 
deadly hate and fury. 

We shall now speak of those who remained ou 
Knockfierna. When Oisin found that the two heroes 
did not return as soon as he expected, he thus 
addressed his companions 

" It seems to me a long time, my friends, since 
Ficna and Innsa went to the Palace of the Quicken 
Trees ; methinks if they have sped successfully they 
should have long since come back with tidings of 
Finn and the others." 

And one of his companions answered, " It is plain 
that they have gone to partake of the feast, and it 
fares so well with them that they are in no haste to 
leave the palace." 

But Dermat O'Dyna of the Bright Face spoke and 
said, " It may be as you say, friend, but I should like 
to know the truth of the matter. And now I will 
go and find out why they tarry, for my mind misgives 
me that some evil thing has happened." 

And Fatha Conan said he would go with him. 

So the two heroes set out for the Palace of the 
Quicken Trees ; and when they were yet a good way 
off from the ford they heard the clash of anna They 
paused for a moment, breathless, to listen, and then 
Dermat exclaimed 

" It is the sound of single combat, the combat of 
mighty heroes ; it is Ficna fighting with the foreigners, 


for I know his war-shout. I hear the clash of swords 
and the groans of warriors ; I hear the shrieks of the 
ravens over the fairy-mansions, and the howls of the 
wild men of the glens ! Hasten, Fatha, hasten, for 
Ficna is in sore strait, and his shout is a shout for 
help ! " 

And so they ran like the wind till they reached the 
hill-brow over the river ; and, looking across in the dim 
moonlight, they saw the whole ford heaped with the 
bodies of the slain, and the two heroes fighting to the 
death at the far side. And at the first glance they 
observed that Ficna, being sore wounded, was yield- 
ing and sheltering behind his shield, and scarce able 
to ward off the blows of Midac. 

Then Fatha cried out, " Fly, Dermat, fly ! Save our 
dear companion ! Save the king's son from death." 

And Dermat, pausing for a moment, said, as if 
communing with himself 

" This is surely an evil plight : for if I run to the 
other side, the foreigner, being the more enraged for 
seeing me, will strike with greater fury, and I may not 
overtake the prince alive; and if I cast my spear, I may 
strike the wrong man!" 

But Fatha, overhearing him, said, " Fear not, Der- 
mat, for you never yet threw an erring cast of a spear !" 

Then Dermat, putting his finger in the silken loop 
of his spear, threw a deadly cast with unerring aim, 
and struck Midac, so that the iron spear-head went 
right through his body, and the length of a warrior's 
hand beyond. 


" Woe to the man," exclaimed Midac " woe to 
him whom that spear reaches : for it is the spear of 
Dennat O'Dyna ! " 

And now his wrath increased, and he struck at 
Ficna more fiercely than before. 

Dermat shouted to him to hold his hand and not 
slay the king's son ; and as he spoke he rushed down 
the slope and across the ford, to save the young 
hero. But Midac, still pressing on with unabated 
strength and fury, replied 

" Had you wished to save the prince's life, you 
should have spared mine : now that I have been 
wounded to death by your spear, Finn shall never see 
his son alive!" 

Even as he spoke, he raised his sword for a mighty 
blow; and just as Dermat, shouting earnestly, was 
closing on them, he struck the prince, lifeless to the 
earth, but fell down himself immediately after. 

Dermat came up on the instant, and looked sadly 
at his friend lying dead. Then, addressing Midac, he 

" If I had found thee dead, I would have passed 
thee untouched ; but now that I have overtaken thee 
alive, I must needs behead thee, for thy head will be 
to Finn a worthy eric 10 for his son." 

And so saying, he struck off Midac's head with one 
sweep of his heavy sword. 

Dermat now repaired to the Palace of the Quicken 
Trees, leaving Fatha to watch the ford till his return. 
And when he had come near, he called aloud and 


struck the door with his heavy spear, for his wrath 
had not yet left him ; but the door yielded not. 

Finn knew the voice, and called out impatiently, 
" Do not try to enter here, Dermat, for this place is 
full of foul spells. But tell us first, I pray thee, who 
fought that long and bitter fight ; for we heard the 
clash of arms and the shouts of warriors, but we know 
nothing more." 

" Thy noble son, Ficna," returned Dennat, " fought 
single-handed against the foreigners." 

"And how fares it with my son after that battle ?" 

"He is dead," answered Dermat; "first sore 
wounded by many foes whom he slaughtered, and 
afterwards slain by Midac, the son of Colga. But thy 
son is avenged ; for though I came to the ford indeed 
too late to save him, I have- slain Midac, and here 
I have brought thee his head as an eric." 

And for a long time Dermat heard no more. 

At last Finn spoke again and said 

" Victory and blessings be with you, Dermat, for 
often before did you relieve theFena from sore straits. 
But never have we been in such plight as this. For 
here we sit spell-bound, and only one thing can release 
us, the blood of the three fierce kings of the Island of 
the Torrent sprinkled on this clay. Meantime, unless 
the for be well defended, the foreigners will come and 
slay us. In you, Dermat, we trust, and unless you aid 
us well and faithfully now, we shall of a certainty 
perish. Guard the ford till the rising of the sun, for 
then I know the Fena will come to aid you." 



" I and Fatha will of a certainty keep the enemy 
at bay," replied Dermat; and he bade them farewell 
for a time, and was about to return to the ford : but 
Conan Mail, with a groan, said 

" Miserable was the hour when I came to this 
palace, and cold and comfortless is the clay on which I 
sit the clay of the Island of the Torrent. But worst 
of all to be without food and drink so long. And 
while I sit here, tormented with hunger and thirst, 
there is great plenty of ale and wine and of rich, 
savoury food yonder in the Palace of the Island. I 
am not able to bear this any longer ; and now, Dermat, 
I beseech you to bring me from the palace as much 
food as I can eat and a drinking-horn of wine." 

"Cursed be the tongue that spoke these selfish 
words ! " said Dermat. " A host of foreigners are now 
seeking to compass your death, with only Fatha and 
myself to defend you. Surely this is work enough for 
two good men ! And now it seems I must abandon my 
post, and undertake a task of much danger, to get 
food for the gluttonous Conan Mail'! " 

" Alas, Dennat-na-man ! " w replied Conan, " if it 
were a lovely maiden, with bright eyes and golden hair, 
who made this little request, quickly and eagerly you 
would fly to please her, little- recking of danger or 
trouble. But now you refuse me, and the reason is 
not hard to see. For you formerly crossed me four 
times in my courtships ; and now it likes you well to 
see me die of hunger in this dungeon ! " 

" Well, then," said Dermat, " cease your upbraiding, 


and I will try to bring you food ; for it is better to 
face danger than to suffer the revilings of your foul 

So saying, he went back to the ford to Fatha> 
where he stood watching ; and after he had told him 
how matters stood, he said to him 

" I must needs go to the Palace of the Island, to 
get food for Conan Mail; and you shall guard the 
ford till I return." 

But Fatha told him that there was food and drink 
enough at the other side of the ford, which Midac had 
brought from the palace, and urged him to bring a 
good meal of this to Conan. 

" Not so," said Dermat. " He would taunt me with 
bringing him food taken from the hands of dead men ; 
and though one may recover from his blow, it is not 
so easy to recover from the venom of his tongue." * 

So he left Fatha at the ford, and repaired to the 
Palace of the Island. 

As he drew nigh, he heard the noise of feasting 
and revelry, and the loud talk and laughter of men deep 
in drink. Walking tiptoe, he peered warily through 
the open door, and saw the chiefs and the knights 
sitting at the tables ; with Sinsar of the Battles and 
his son Borba high seated over all He saw also 
many attendants serving them with food and drink, 
each holding in his hand a large ornamented drinking- 
horn, filled with wine. 

Dermat entered the outer door softly, and stood 

* A satirical allusion to Conan' s well-known cowardice. 


in a dark part of the passage near the door, silent and 
stern, with sword drawn, watching his 'opportunity. 
And after a time one of the attendants, unsuspecting, 
'passed close to him ; when Dermat, with a swift, sure 
blow, struck off his head. And he snatched the 
drinking-horn from the man's hand before he fell, so 
that not a drop of the wine was spilled. 

Then, laying the drinking-horn aside for a moment, 
he walked straight into the hall, and taking up one 
of the dishes near where the king sat, he went out 
through the open door, bringing with him both dish 
and drinking-horn. And amidst the great crowd, and 
the drinking, and the noise, no one took the least 
notice of him, so that he got off without hindrance 
or harm of any kind. 

When he reached the ford, he found Fatha lying 
fast asleep on the bank. He wondered very much 
that he could sleep in the midst of such a slaughter ; 
but knowing that the young warrior was worn out 
with watching and toil, he left him lying aslee'p, and 
went to the Palace of the Quicken Trees with the 
food for Conan. 

When he had come to the door, he called aloud to 
Conan and said 

" I have here a goodly meal of choice food : how 
am I to give it to thee ? " 

Conan said, "Throw it towards me through 
yonder little opening." 

Dermat did so ; and as fast as he threw the food, 
Conan caught it in his large hands, and ate it up 


ravenously. And when it was all gone, Dermat 

" I have here a large drinking-horn of good wine : 
how am I to give it to thee ? " 

Conan answered, "There is a place behind the 
palace where, from a rock, you may reach the lower 
parapet with a light, airy bound. Come from that 
straight over me, and break a hole in the roof with 
your spear, through which you can pour the wine 
down to me." 

Dermat did so ; and as he poured down the wine, 
Conan, with upturned face, opened his great mouth 
and caught it, and swallowed it every drop. 

After this Dermat came down and returned to the 
ford, where he found Fatha still asleep ; and he sat 
beside him, but did not awaken him. 



TIDINGS were brought to the Palace of the Island that 
Midac and all whom he led were slain at the ford ; 
and the three kings of the Island of the Torrent said 
" The young king of Lochlann did wrong to make 
this attempt without asking our counsel ; and had we 
known of the thing we would have hindered him. 


For to us belongs the right to hehead Finn and his 
companions, since it is the spell-venom of the clay 
which we brought from the Island of the Torrent that 
holds them bound in the Palace of the Quicken Trees. 
And now, indeed, we will go and slay them all." 

So they set out with a strong party, and soon 
reached the ford. Looking across in the dim light, 
they saw Dermat, and called aloud to ask who he was. 

" I am Dermat O'Dyna," he replied, " one of Finn's 
champions. He has sent me to guard this ford, and 
whoever you are, I warn you not to cross ! " 

Then they sought to beguile Dermat, and to win 
him over by smooth words ; and they replied 

" It is a pleasure to us to meet you, Dermat ; for 
we are old friends of yours. We are the three kings 
of the Island of the Torrent, your fellow-pupils in 
valour and all heroic feats. For you and we lived 
with the same tutors from the beginning ; and you 
never learned a feat of arms that we did not learn 
in like manner. Leave the ford, then, that we may 
pass on to the Palace of the Quicken Trees." 

But Dermat answered in few words, "Finn and 
his companions are under my protection till morning ; 
and I will defend the ford as long as I am alive ! " 

And he stood up straight and tall like a pillar, and 
scowled across the ford. 

A number of the foreigners now rushed towards 
Dermat, and raging in a confused crowd, assailed him. 
But the strong hero met them as a rock meets the 
waves, and slew them with ease as they came within 


the range of his sword. Yet still they pressed on, 
others succeeding those that fell ; and in the midst of 
the rage of battle, Fatha started up from his sleep, 
awakened by the crashing of weapons and the riving 
of shields. 

He gazed for a moment, bewildered, at the com- 
batants, and, seeing how matters stood, he was wroth 
with Dermat for not awakening him ; so that he ran 
at him fiercely with drawn sword. But Dermat 
stepped aside, and, being angry, thus addressed him 

" Slake thy vengeance on our foes for the present : 
for me, the swords of the foreigners are enough, 
methinks, without thine to aid them ! " 

Then Fatha turned and attacked the foe, and his 
onset was even more deadly than that of Dermat ; so 
that they fell before him to the right and left on the 

And now at last the three kings, seeing so many 
of their men falling, advanced slowly towards Dermat ; 
and Dermat, unterrified, stood in his place to meet 
them. And their weapons clashed and tore through 
their shields, and the fight was long and furious ; till at 
last the champion-pride and the battle-fury of Dermat 
arose, so that the three dragon-like kings fell slain 
one by one before him, on that ford of red slaughter. 

And now, though smarting with wounds, and breath- 
less, and weary, Dermat and Fatha remembered Finn 
and the Fena; and Dermat called to mind what Finn had 
told him as to how the spell was to be broken. So he 
struck off the heads of the three kings, and, followed 


by Fatha, he ran with them, all gory as they were, to 
the Palace of the Quicken Trees. 

As they drew nigh to the door, Finn, knowing 
their voices and their footsteps, called aloud anxiously ' 
to ask how it fared with the combatants at the ford ; 
"For," said he, "the crashing and the din of that 
battle exceeded all we have yet heard, and we know 
not how it has ended." 

Dennat answered, " King of the Fena, Fatha and 
I have slain the three kings of the Island of the 
Torrent ; and lo, here we have their heads all bloody ; 
but how am I to bring them to thee ? " 

" Victory and blessings be with you, Dermat ; you 
and Fatha have fought a valiant fight, worthy of the 
Fena of Erin ! Now sprinkle the door with the blood." 

Dermat did so, and in a moment the door flew 
wide open with a crash. And inside they saw the 
heroes in sore plight, all pale and faint, seated on the 
cold clay round the wall. Dermat and Fatha, holding 
the gory heads by the hair, sprinkled the earth under 
each with the blood, beginning with Finn, and freed 
them one by one ; and the heroes, as they found the 
spell broken, sprang to their feet with exulting cries. 
And they thanked the gods for having relieved them 
from that perilous strait, and they and the two 
heroes joyfully embraced each other. 

But danger still threatened, and they now took 
counsel what they should do; and Finn, addressing 
Dermat and Fatha, said 

" The venom of these foul spells has withered our 


strength, so that we are not able to fight ; but at sun- 
rise they will lose their power, and we shall be strong 
again. It is necessary, therefore, that you still guard 
the ford, and at the rising of the sun we shall relieve 

So the two heroes went to the ford, and Fatha 
returned with food and drink for Finn and the others. 

After the last battle at the ford, a few who had 
escaped brought back tidings to the King of the World 
and his people, that the three kings of the Island of 
the Torrent had fallen by the hands of Dermat and 
Fatha. But they knew not that Finn and the others 
had been released. 

Then arose the king's son, Borba the Haughty, who, 
next to the king himself, was mightiest in battle of all 
the foreign host. And he said 

" Feeble warriors were they who tried to cross this 
ford. I will go now and avenge the death of our 
people on these Fena, and I will bring hither the head of 
Finn the son of Cumal, and place it at my father's feet." 

So he marched forth without delay, with a large 
body of chosen warriors, till he reached the edge of the 
ford. And although Dermat and Fatha never trembled 
before a foe, yet when they saw the dark mass draw- 
ing nigh, and heard the heavy tread and clank of 
arms, they dreaded that they might be dislodged and 
overpowered by repeated attacks, leaving Finn and 
the rest helpless and unprotected. And each in his 
heart longed for the dawn of morning. 


No parley was held this time, but the foreigners 
came straight across the ford as many abreast as 
could find footing. And as they drew near, Dermat 
spoke to Fatha 

" Fight warily, my friend : ward the blows of the 
foremost, and be not too eager to slay, but rather look 
to thy own safety. It behoves us to nurse our strength 
and prolong the fight, for the day is dawning, and 
sunrise is not far off ! " 

The foreigners came on, many abreast; but their 
numbers availed them naught, for the pass was narrow ; 
and the two heroes, one taking the advancing party 
to the right, and the other to the left, sometimes 
parried and sometimes slew, but never yielded an inch 
from where they stood. 

And now at last the sun rose up over the broad 
plain of Kenri ; and suddenly the withering spell went 
forth from the bones and sinews of the heroes who sat 
at the Palace of the Quicken Trees, listening with 
anxious hearts to the clash of battle at the ford. Joy- 
fully they started to their feet, and, snatching up their 
arms, hastened down to the ford with Finn at their 
head ; but one they sent, the swiftest among them, to 
Knockfierna, to take the news to Oisin. 

Dermat and Fatha, fighting eagerly, heeded not 
that the sun had risen, though it was now indeed 
glittering before their eyes on the helmets and arms 
of their foes. But as they fought, there rose a great 
shout behind them ; and Finn and Geul and the rest 
ran down the slope to attack the foreigners. 


The foreigners, not in the least dismayed, answered 
the attack ; and the fight went on, till Gaul Mac 
Morna and Borba the Haughty met face to face in the 
middle of the ford, and they fought a hard and deadly 
combat. The battle-fury of Gaul at length arose, so 
that nothing could stand before him, and, with one 
mighty blow, he cleft the head from the body of Borba. 

And now the foreigners began to yield : but they 
fitill continued to fight, till a swift messenger sped to 
the Palace of the Island, and told the great king, 
Sinsar of the Battles, that his son was dead, slain by 
Gaul ; and that his army was sore pressed by theFena, 
with Finn at their head. 

When the people heard these tidings, they raised a 
long and sorrowful cry of lamentation for the king's 
son ; but the king himself, though sorrow filled his 
heart, showed it not. And he arose and summoned 
his whole host ; and, having arranged them in their 
battalions and in their companies under their princes 
and chiefs, he marched towards the battle-field, 
desiring vengeance on the Fena more than the glory 
of victory. 



ALL the Fena who had gone to the chase from Knock - 
fierna had returned, and w.ere now with Oisin, the son 
of Finn. And the messenger came slowly up the hill- 


side, and told them, though with much difficulty, for 
he was weary and breathless, the whole story from 
beginning to end, of Finn's enchantment, and of the 
battles at the ford, and how their companions at that 
moment stood much in need of aid against the 

Instantly the whole body marched straight towards 
the Palace of the Quicken Trees, and arrived on the 
hill-brow over the ford, just as the King of the World 
and his army were approaching from the opposite 

And now the fight at the ford ceased for a time, 
while the two armies were put in battle array ; and 
on neither side was there any cowardice or any desire 
to avoid the combat. 

TheFena were divided into four battalions. The 
active, bright-eyed Clann Baskin marched in front of 
the first battalion ; the fierce, champion-like Clann 
Morna led the second ; the strong, sanguinary Mic-an- 
Smoil brought up the third ; and the fourth was led 
forward by the fearless, venomous Clann O'Navnan. 

And they marched forward, with their silken 
banners, each banner-staff in the hand of a tall, trusty 
hero ; their helmets glittering with precious gems ; 
their broad, beautiful shields on their left shoulders ; 
with their long, straight, deadly lances in their hands ; 
and their heavy, keen-edged swords hanging at the 
left side of each. Onward they marched ; and woe to 
those who crossed the path of that host of active, high- 
minded champions, who never turned their backs on 
an enemy in battle ! 


And now at last the fight began with showers of 
light, venomous missiles ; and many a hero fell even 
before the combatants met face to face. Then they 
drew their long, broad-bladed swords, and the ranks 
closed and mingled in deadly strife. It would be vain 
to attempt a description of that battle, for it was hard 
to distinguish friend from foe. Many a high-souled 
hero fell wounded and helpless, and neither sigh nor 
groan of pain escaped them ; but they died, encouraging 
their friends to vengeance with voice and gesture. 
And the first thought of each champion was to take 
the life of his foe rather than to save his own/ 

The great king Finn himself moved tall and 
stately from battalion to battalion, now fighting in the 
foremost ranks, and now encouraging his friends and 
companions, his mighty voice rising clear over the 
clash of arms and the shouts of the combatants. And 
wherever he moved, there the courage of the Fena rose 
high, and their valour and their daring increased, so 
that the ranks of their foes fell back thinned and 
scattered before them. 

Oscar, resting for a moment from the toil of battle, 
looked round, and espied the standard of the King 
of the World, where he stood guarded by his best 
warriors, to protect him from the danger of being 
surrounded and outnumbered by his foes ; and the 
young hero's wrath was kindled when he observed 
that the Fena were falling back dismayed wherever 
that standard was borne. 

Rushing through the opposing ranks like a lion 


maddened by dogs, he approached the king ; and the 
king laughed a grim laugh of joy when he saw him, 
and ordered his guards back ; for he was glad in 
his heart, expecting to revenge his son's death by 
slaying with his own hand Finn's grandson, who was 
most loved of all the youthful champions of the Fena. 
Then these two great heroes fought a deadly battle ; 
and many a warrior stayed his hand to witness this 
combat. It seemed as if both should fall; for each 
inflicted on the other many wounds. The king's rage 
knew no bounds at being so long withstood, for at 
first sight he despised Oscar for his youth and beauty ; 
and he made an onset that caused Oscar's friends, as 
they looked on, to tremble ; for during this attack the 
young hero defended himself, and no more. But now, 
having yielded for a time, he called to mind the actions 
and the fame of his forefathers, and attacked the king 
in turn, and, with a blow that no shield or buckler 
could withstand, he swept the head from the king's 

Then a great shout went up from the Fena, and the 
foreigners instantly gave way ; and they were pursued 
and slaughtered on every side. A few threw away 
their arms and escaped to the shore, where, hastily 
unmooring their ships, they sailed swiftly away to 
their own country, with tidings of the death of their 
king and the slaughter of their army. 





ONE day in the beginning of summer, Finn, the son 
of Cumal, the son of Trenmore O'Baskin, 23 feasted the 
chief people of Erin at Allen 28 of the broad hill-slopes. 
And when the feast was over, the Fena reminded 
him that it was time to begin the chase through the 
plains and the glens and the wildernesses of Erin. 

For this was the manner in which the Fena were 
wont to spend their time. They divided the year 
into two parts. During the first half, namely, from 
Beltane to Samin,* they hunted each day with their 
dogs ; and during the second half, namely, from Samin 
to Beltane, they lived in the mansions and the betas f 
of Erin ; so that there was not a chief or a great lord 
or a keeper of a house of hospitality in the whole 
country that had not nine of the Fena quartered on 
him during the winter half of the year. 

* Beltane, the first of May ; Samin, the first of November, 
f Beta, a public house of hospitality. 


Finn and his chiefs now held council as to which 
of the provinces of Erin they should begin with ; 
and they chose Munster for the first chase. 

Next day they set out, both dogs and men ; and 
they travelled through Offaly,* and bygone side of 
Fera-call, and to Brosna of Slieve Bloma, and by 
the Twelve Mountains of Evlinn, till they came to 
Collkilla, which is now called Knockainy. 

The chase was then set in order, and they scattered 
themselves over the broad plains of Munster. They 
began at Ardpatrick, f and they hunted over Kenn- 

* Offaly, now the name of two baronies in the oonnty Kildare. 

Fera-call, or Fircal, an ancient territory in the present King's 

Brosna, a small river rising in the Slieve Bloma, or Slieve Bloom 
mountains, which flows by Birr, and falls into the Shannon near 
Banagher ; nsnally called the Little Brosna, to distinguish it from the 
Great Brosna, which flows through King's Connty into the Shannon. 

The Twelve Mountains of Evlinn. (See note, page 97.) 

Knockainy, a small hill much celebrated in fairy lore, in the 
county Limerick, giving name to the village of Knockainy at its 
base. It appears from the text that it was more anciently called 
Collkilla, or hazel-wood. 

f Ardpatrick, a beautiful green hill, with a remarkable church 
miii and graveyard on its summit, two miles from Kilfinane, county 

Kenn-Avrat was the ancient name of Seefin mountain, rising 
uver the village of Glenosheen, two miles from Ardpatrick. Slieve- 
Keen, the old name of the hill of Carrigeennamroanty, near Seefin. 

Fermoy, a well-known town and barony in the county Cork. It 
appears from the text that the district was anciently known by the 
name of Coill-na-drua, or the wood of the druids. 

Lehan, the ancient name of the district round Castlelyons, in the 
county Cork. 

Fermorc, now the baronies of Connello, in Limerick. (See note, 
page 184.) 

Curoi Mac Dara, a celebrated chief who flourished in the time </ 


Avrat of Slieve-Keen, and over Coill-na-drua, which 
is now called the district of Fennoy ; over the fruit- 
ful lands of Lehan, and over the confines of Fermorc, 
which is now called Hy Conall Gavra. Then south 
to the patrimony of Curoi Mac Dara, and by the 
shores of Loch Lein; afterwards along the blue- 
streamy Suir, by Caher-Dun-Isca, over the great 
plain of Femin, and across the speckled summit of 
Slieve-na-man-finn ; all over East Munster and West 
Munster, as far as Balla-Gavran on the one side, 
and on the other across the Shannon to Cratioe, 
near Limerick of the blue waters. 

In short, there was not a plain or a valley, a wood 
or a brake, a mountain or a wilderness, in the two 
provinces of Munster, that they did not hunt over 
on that occasion. 

Now it chanced at one time during the chase, 
while they were hunting over the plain of Cliach,* 
that Finn went to rest on the hill of Collkilla, which 

the Red Branch Knights of Ulster, viz., in the first century of the 
Christian era. Curoi had his residence on a mountain near Tralee, 
still called Caherconree (the fortress of Curoi), and his "patrimony" 
was South Munster. The remains of Curoi's great stone fortress 
are still to be seen on Caherconree. 

Loch Lein, the Lakes of Killarney. 

Caher-Dun-Isca, now the town of Caher, on the Snir, in Tipperary. 

FenJn was the name of the great plain lying to the south and west 
of the mountain of Slievenaman, or Slieve-na-man-finn, near Clonmel, 
in Tipperary. 

Balla-Gavran, or the pass of Gavran, an ancient road, which ran 
by Gavran (now Gowran), in the county Kilkenny. 

Cratloe, a well-known district on the Clare side of the Shannon, 
near Limerick. 

* Cliach, the old name of the plain lying round Knockainy. 



is now called Knockainy; and he had his hunting- 
tents pitched on a level spot near the summit. Some 
of his chief heroes tarried with him ; namely, his son 
Oisin ; the valiant Oscar, the son of Oisin ; Gaul Mac 
Morna of the Mighty Deeds; Finn's shield-bearer, 
Skeabrac; Kylta Mac Ronan; Dermat O'Dyna of 
the Bright Face ; Ligan Lumina the Swift-footed ; 
Conan Mail of the Foul Tongue ; and Finn Ban Mac 

When the king and his companions had taken 
their places on the hill, the Fena unleashed their 
gracefully shaped, sweet-voiced hounds through the 
woods and sloping glens. And it was sweet music 
to Finn's ear, the cry of the long-snouted dogs, as 
they routed the deer from their covers, and the 
badgers from their dens ; the pleasant, emulating 
shouts / of the youths; the whistling and signalling 
of the huntsmen ; and the encouraging cheers of the 
mighty heroes, as they spread themselves through the 
glens and woods, and over the broad, green plain of 

Then did Finn ask who of all his companions 
would go to the highest point of the hill directly 
over them, to keep watch and ward, and to report 
how the chase went on. For, he said, the Dedannans 1 
were ever on the watch to work the Fena mischief by 
their druidical spells, and more so during the chase 
than at other times. 

Finn Ban Mac Bresal stood forward and offered 
to go : and, grasping his broad spears, he went to the 


top, and sat viewing the plain to the four points of 
the sky. And the king and his companions brought 
forth the chess-board and chess-men, 26 and sat them 
down to a game. 

Finn Ban Mac Bresal had been watching only 
a little time, when he saw on the plain to the east^ 
a Fomor* of vast size coming towards the hill, 
leading a horse. As he came nearer, Finn Ban 
observed that he was the ugliest-looking giant his 
eyes ever lighted on. He had a large, thick body, 
bloated and swollen out to a great size; clumsy, 
crooked legs; and broad, flat feet, turned inwards. 
His hands and arms and shoulders were bony and 
thick and very strong-looking; his neck was long 
and thin ; and while his head was poked forward, his 
face was turned up, as he stared straight at Finn 
Mac Bresal. He had thick lips, and long, crooked 
teeth ; and his face was covered all over with bushy 

He was fully armed; but all his weapons were 
rusty and soiled and slovenly looking. A broad 
shield of a dirty, sooty colour, rough and battered, 
hung over his back; he had a long, heavy, straight 
sword at his left hip ; and he held in his left hand 
two thick-handled, broad-headed spears, old and rusty, 
and seeming as if they had not been handled for 
years. In his right hand he held an iron club, which 

* Fomor, a gigantic warrior, a giant ; its primitive meaning is 
" a sea-robber," commonly called a Fomorian. (See note 5 at the 


he dragged after him, with its end on the ground; 
and, as it trailed along, it tore up a track as deep 
as the furrow a farmer ploughs with a team of oxen. 

The horse he led was even larger in proportion 
than the giant himself, and quite as ugly. His 
great carcase was covered all over with tangled, 
scraggy hair, of a sooty black ; you could count his 
ribs, and all the points of his big bones through 
his hide ; his legs were crooked and knotty ; his 
neck was twisted; and' as for his jaws, they were 
so long and heavy that they made his head look 
twice too large for his body. 

The giant held him by a thick halter, and seemed 
to be dragging him forward by main force, the animal 
was so lazy and so hard to move. Every now and 
then, when the beast tried to stand still, the giant 
would give him a blow on the ribs with his big iron 
club, which sounded as loud as the thundering of a 
great billow against the rough-headed rocks of the 
coast. When he gave him a pull forward by the 
halter, the wonder was that he did not drag the 
animal's head away from his body ; and, on the other 
hand, the horse often gave the halter such a tre- 
mendous tug backwards that it was equally wonderful 
how the arm of the giant was not torn away from 
his shoulder. 

Now it was not an easy matter to frighten Finn 
Ban Mac Bresal ; but when he saw the giant and his 
horse coming straight towards him in that wise, he 
was seized with such fear and horror that he sprang 


from his seat, and, snatching up his arms, he ran down 
the hill -slope with his utmost speed towards the king 
and his companions, whom he found 'sitting round the 
chess-board, deep in their game. 

They started up when they saw Finn Ban looking 
so scared ; and, turning their eyes towards where he 
pointed, they saw the big man and his horse coming 
up the hill. They stood gazing at him- in silent 
wonder, waiting till he should arrive ; but although 
he was no great way off when they first caught sight 
of him, it was a long time before he reached the 
spot where they stood, so slow was the movement of 
himself and his horse. 

When at last he had come up, he bowed his head, 
and bended his knee, and saluted the king with great 

Finn addressed him ; and after having given him 
leave to speak, he asked him who he was, and what 
was his name ; from which of the three chief divisions 
of the world he had come, and whether he belonged 
to one of the noble or ignoble races ; also what was 
his profession or craft, and why he had no servant 
to attend to his horse if, indeed, such an ugly old 
spectre of an animal could be called a horse at all. 

The big man made answer and said, " King of the 
Fena, I will answer everything you ask me, as far as 
lies in my power. Whether I come of a noble or of an 
ignoble race, that, indeed, I cannot tell, for I know not 
who my father and mother were. As to where I came 
from, I am a Fomor of Lochlann 6 in the north ; but I 


have no particular dwelling-place, for I am continuallv 
travelling about from one country to another, serving 
the great lords and nobles of the world, and receiving 
wages for my service. 

" In the course of my wanderings I have often 
heard of you, O king, and of your greatness and 
splendour and royal bounty ; and I have come now to 
visit you, and to ask you to take me into your service 
for one year ; and at the end of that time I shall fix 
my own wages, according to my custom. 

" You ask me also why I have no servant for this 
great horse of mine. The reason of that is this : at 
every meal I eat, my master must give me as much 
food and drink as would be enough for a hundred men ; 
and whosoever the lord or chief may be that takes me 
into his service, it is quite enough for him to have to 
provide for me, without having also to feed my 

" Moreover, I am so very heavy and lazy that I 
should never be able to keep up with a company on 
march if I had to walk ; and this is my reason for 
keeping a horse at all. 

" My name is the Gilla Dacker,* and it is not with- 
out good reason that I am so called. For there nevei 
was a lazier or worse servant than I am, or one that 
grumbles more at doing a day's work for his master. 
And I am the hardest person in the whole world to 
deal with ; for, no matter how good or noble I may 

Gilla Dacker means "a slothful fellow" a fellow hard to 
move, hard to manage, hard to have anything to do with. 


think my master, or how kindly he may treat me, it is 
hard words and foul reproaches I am likely to give 
him for thanks in the end. 

"This, Finn, is the account I have to give of 
myself, and these are my answers to your questions." 

" Well," answered Finn, " according to your own 
account, you are not a very pleasant fellow to have 
anything to do with ; and of a truth there is not 
much to praise in your appearance. But things rnay 
not be so bad as you say ; and, anyhow, as I have 
never yet refused any man service and wages, I will 
not now refuse you." 

Whereupon Finn and the Gilla Dacker made cove- 
nants, and the Gilla Dacker was taken into service for 
a year. 

Then the big man turned to Conan Mail, and 
asked him whether the foot-service or the horse-service 
had the better pay among the Fena; and Conan 
answered that the horsemen had twice as much pay as 
the footmen. 

" If that be so," replied the Gilla Dacker, " I will 
join the horse-service, as I have a fine steed of my 
own ; and indeed, if I had known this before, I would 
certainly have come hither on horseback, instead of 

" And now, as to this same horse of mine, I find I 
must attend to him myself, as I see no one here worthy 
of putting a hand near him. So I will lead him to the 
nearest stud, as I am wont to do, and let him graze 
among your horses. I value him greatly, however, 


and it would grieve me very much if any harm were to 
befall him ; so," continued he, turning to the king, " I 
put him under your protection, O king, and under the 
protection of all the Fena that are here present." 

At this speech the Fena all burst out laughing, to 
^ee the Gilla Dacker showing such concern for his 
miserable, worthless old skeleton of a horse. 

Howbeit, the big man, giving not the least heed to 
their merriment, took the halter off the horse's head, 
and turned him loose among the horses of the Fena. 

But now, this same wretched-looking old animal, 
instead of beginning to graze, as every one thought he 
would, ran in among the horses of the Feua, and began 
straightway to work all sorts of mischief. He cocked ' 
his long, hard, switchy tail straight out like a rod, and, 
throwing up his hind legs, he kicked about on this side 
and on that, maiming and disabling several of the 
horses. Sometimes he went tearing through the 
thickest of the herd, butting at them with his hard, 
bony forehead; and he opened out his lips with a 
vicious grin, and tore all he could lay hold on, with 
his sharp, crooked teeth, so that none were safe that 
came in his way either before or behind. And the end 
of it was, that not an animal of the whole herd 
escaped, without having a leg broken, or an eye 
knocked out, or his ribs fractured, or his ear bitten off, 
or the side of his face torn open, or without being in 
some other way cut or maimed beyond cure. 

At last he left them, and was making straight 
across to a small field where Conan Mail's horses were 


grazing by themselves, intending to play the same 
tricks among them. But Conan, seeing this, shouted 
in great alarm to the Gilla Backer, to bring away his 
horse, and not let him work any more mischief; and 
threatening, if he did not do so at once, to go himself 
and knock the brains out of the vicious old brute on 
the spot. 

But the Gilla Backer took the matter quite cool ; 
and he told Conan that he saw no way of preventing 
his horse from joining the others, except some one put 
the halter on him and held him, which would, of 
course, he said, prevent the poor animal from grazing, 
and would leave him with a hungry belly at the end 
of the day. 

He said, moreover, that as he had no horse-boy, 
and must needs do everything for himself, he thought 
it quite time enough to look after his horse when he 
had to make ready for a journey. " But," said he to 
Conan, " there is the halter ; and if you are in any fear 
for your own animals, you may go yourself and bring 
him away from the field." 

Conan was in a mighty rage when he heard this ; 
and as he saw the big horse just about to cross the 
fence, he snatched up the halter, and running forward, 
with long strides, he threw it over the animal's head 
and thought to lead him back. But in a moment the 
horse stood stock still, and his body and legs became 
as stiff as if they were made of wood ; and though 
Conan pulled and tugged with might and main, he 
was not able to stir him an inch from his place. 


He gave up pulling at last, when he found it was 
no use ; but he still kept on holding the halter, while 
the big horse never made the least stir, but stood as if 
he had been turned into stone ; the Gilla Dacker all 
the time looking on quite unconcernedly, and the 
others laughing at Conan's perplexity. But no one 
offered to relieve him. 

At last Fergus Finnvel, the poet, spoke to Conan, 
and said, " I never would have believed, Conan Mail, 
that you could be brought to do horse-service for any 
knight or noble in the whole world ; but now, indeed, 
I see that you have made yourself a horse-boy to an 
ugly foreign giant, so hateful-looking and low-born 
that not a man of the Fena would have anything to 
say to him. As you have, however, to mind this old 
horse in order to save your own, would it not be better 
for you to mount him, and revenge yourself for all the 
trouble he is giving you, by riding him across the 
country, over the hill-tops, and down into the deep 
glens and valleys, and through stones and bogs and all 
sorts of rough places, till you have broken the heart in 
his big, ugly body ? " 

Conan, stung by the cutting words of the poet, and 
by the jeers of his companions, jumped upon the 
horse's back, and began to beat him mightily with his 
heels, and with his two big, heavy fists, to make him 
go ; but the horse seemed not to take the least notice 
and never stirred. 

" I know the reason he does not go," said Fergus 
Finnvel ; " he has been accustomed to carry a horseman 


far heavier than you, that is to say, the Gilla Backer ; 
and he will not move till he has the same weight on 
his back." 

At this Conan Mail called out to his companions, 
and asked which of them would mount with him, and 
help to avenge the damage done to their horses. 

" I will go," said Coil Croda the Battle Victor, son 
of Criffan ; and up he went. But^ the horse nevel 

Dara Donn Mac Morna next offered to go, and 
mounted behind the others : and after him Angus 
Mac Art Mac Morna. And the end of it was, that 
fourteen men of the Clann Baskin and Clann Morna w 
got up along with Conan ; and all began to thrash the 
horse together, with might and main. But they were 
none the better of it, for he remained standing stiff 
and immovable as before. They found, moreover, that 
their seat was not at all an easy one the animal's 
back was so sharp and bony. 



WHEN the Gilla Backer saw the Fena beating his horse 
at such a rate, he seemed very angry, and addressed 
the king in these words 

"King of tbe Fena, I now see plainly that all the 


fine accounts I heard about you and the Fena are 
false, and I will not stay in your servive no, not 
another hour. You can see for yourself the ill usage 
these men are giving my horse without cause; and 
I leave you to judge whether any one could put up 
with it any one who had the least regard for his 
horse. The time is, indeed, short since I entered your 
service, but I now think it a great deal too long ; so 
pay me my wages, and let me go my ways." 

But Finn said, " I do not wish you to go ; stay on 
till the end of your year, and then I will pay you all 
I promised you." 

" I swear," answered the Gilla Backer, " that if this 
were the very last day of my year, I would not wait 
till morning for my wages, after this insult. So, wages 
or no wages, I will now seek another master ; but from 
this time forth I shall know what to think of Finn 
Mac Cumal and his Fena !" 

With that the Gilla Dacker stood up as straight as 
a pillar, and, turning his face towards the south-west, 
he walked slowly away. 

When the horse saw his master leaving the hill, he 
stirred himself at once and walked quietly after him, 
bringing the fifteen men away on his back. And when 
the Fena saw this they raised a loud shout of laughter, 
mocking them. 

The Gilla Dacker, after he had walked some little 
way, looked back, and seeing that his horse was 
following, he stood for a moment to tuck up his skirts. 
Then, all at once changing his pace, he set out with 


long, active strides ; and if you know what the speed 
of a swallow is, flying across a mountain-side, or the 
dry, fairy wind of a March day sweeping over the 
plains, then you can understand the swiftness of 
the Gilla Backer, as he ran down the hill-side towards 
the south-west. 

Neither was the horse behindhand in the race ; for, 
though he carried a heavy load, he galloped like the 
wind after his master, plunging and bounding forward 
with as much freedom as if he had nothing at all, on 
his back. 

The men now tried to throw themselves off; but 
this, indeed, they were not able to do, for the good 
reason that they found themselves fastened firmly, 
hands and feet and all, to the horse's back. 

And now Conan, looking round, raised his big 
voice, and shouted to Finn and the Fena, asking them 
were they content to let their friends be carried off in 
that manner by such a horrible, foul-looking old spectre 
of a horse. 

Finn and the others, hearing this, seized their arms 
and started off in pursuit. Now the way the Gilla 
Dacker and his horse took was first through Fermorc,* 
which is at the present day called Hy Conall Gavra ; 
next over the wide, heathy summit of Slieve Lougher ; 

* Fermorc, now the baronies of Connello, in Limerick. Slieve 
Lougher, a celebrated mountain near Castle Island, in Kerry. Corca 
Divna, now the barony of Corkaguiny, the long peninsula lying west 
of Tralee, and containing the town of Dingle, and the mountain range 
of Slieve Mish. Cloghan Kincat, now called Cloghan, a small village 
on the northern coast of the peninsula. 


from that to Corca Divna; and they ran along by 
Slieve Mish, till they reached Cloghan Kincat, near 
the deep green sea. 

During all this time Finn and his people kept 
them in view, but were not able to overtake them , 
and Ligan Lumina, one of the swiftest of the Fena. 
kept ahead of the others. 

The horse now passed by Cloghan Kincat without 
in the least abating his speed; and when he had 
arrived on the beach, even at the very water's edge, 
Ligan overtook him, and caught him by the tail with 
his two hands, intending to hold him till the rest of 
the Fena came up. He gave a mighty pull back ; but 
the horse, not in the least checked by this, made no 
more ado but plunged forward through the waves, 
dragging Ligan after him hanging at his tail. And 
Ligan now found that he could neither help his friends 
nor free himself, for his two hands clung fast to the 
tail of the horse. 

And so the great horse continued his course with- 
out stop or stay, bringing the sixteen Fena with him 
through the sea. Now this is how they fared in the 
sea, while the horse was rushing swiftly farther and 
farther to the west : they had always a dry, firm strand 
under them, for the waters retired before the horse 
while behind them was a wild, raging sea, which 
followed close after, and seemed ready every moment 
to topple over their heads. But, though the billows 
were tumbling and roaring all round, neither horse nor 
riders were wetted by as much as a drop of brine or 
a dash of spray. 




Now as to Finn and the others. They stood on the 
bank over the beach, watching the horse and men till 
they lost sight of them in the sea afar off; and then 
they sat them down, weary after their long chase, and 
full of sadness for the loss of their companions. 

After a long silence, Finn spoke and asked the 
chiefs what they thought best to be done. But they 
replied that he was far beyond them all in knowledge 
and wisdom ; and they told him they would follow 
whatsoever counsel he and Fergus Finnvel, the poet, 
gave them. Then Finn told Fergus to speak his mind ; 
and Fergus said 

" My counsel is that we go straightway to Ben 
Edar,* where we shall find a ship ready to sail. For 
our forefathers, when they wrested the land from the 
gifted, bright-complexioned Dedannans, bound them by 
covenant to maintain this ship for ever, fitted with 
all things needful for a voyage, even to the smallest 
article, as one of the privileges of Ben Edar ; so that 
if at any time one of the noble sons of Gael Glas t 
wished to sail to distant lands from Erin, he should 
have a ship lying at hand in the harbour ready to 
begin his voyage." 

* Ben Edar, now Howth Hill, near Dublin. 

t Gael Glas, the traditional ancestor of the Gaels. 


They agreed to this counsel, and turned their steps 
without delay northwards towards Ben Edar. They 
had not gone far when they met two noble-looking 
youths, fully armed, and wearing over their armour 
beautiful mantles of scarlet silk, fastened by brooches 
of gold. The strangers saluted the king with much 
respect ; and the king saluted them in return. Then, 
having given them leave to converse, he asked them 
who they were, whither they had come, and who the 
prince or chief was that they served. And the elder 

" My name is Feradach, and my brother's name is 
Foltlebar; and we are the two sons of the king of 
Innia. Each of us professes an art ; and it has long 
been a point of dispute between us, which art is the 
better, my brother's or mine. Hearing that there is 
not in the world a wiser or more far-seeing man than 
thou art, king, we have come to ask thee to take 
us into thy service among thy household troops for a 
year, and at the end of that time to give judgment 
between us in this matter." 

Finn asked them what were the two arts they 

" My art," answered Feradach, " is this : If at 
any time a company of warriors need a ship, give me 
only my joiner's axe and my crann-tavall,* and I am 
able to provide a ship for them without delay. The 
only thing I ask them to do is this to cover their 

* Crann-tav'all, a sort of sling for projecting stones, made of an 
elastic piece of wood, and strung somewhat like a cross-bow. 


heads close, and keep them covered, while I give the 
crann-tavall three blows of my axe. Then I tell them 
to uncover their heads ; and lo, there lies the ship in 
harbour, ready to sail ! " 

Then Foltlebar spoke and said, "This, king, 
is the art I profess : On land I can track the wild duck 
over nine ridges and nine glens, and follow her with- 
out being once thrown out, till I drop upon her in her 
nest. And I can follow up a track on sea quite as 
well as on land, if I have a good ship and crew." 

Finn replied, " You are the very men I want ; and 
I now take you both into my service. At this 
moment I need a good ship and a skilful pilot more 
than any two things in the whole world. And 
though our own track-men, namely, the Clann 
Navin, are good, yet we now need some one still 
more skilful, to follow the Gilla Dacker through 
unknown seas." 

Then the two brothers asked Finn what strait he 
was in at that moment, and why he wanted a ship 
and pilot so much. Whereupon Finn told them the 
whole story of the Gilla Backer's doings from begin- 
ning to end. "And we are now," said he, "on our 
w&y to Ben Edar, to seek a ship, that we may follow 
this giant and his horse, and rescue our companions." 

Then Feradach said, "I will get you a ship 
a ship that will sail as swiftly as a swallow can 

And Foltlebar said, "I will guide your ship in 
the track of the Gilla Dacker till ye lay hands on 


him, in^ whatsoever quarter of the world he may have 
hidden himself!" 

And so they turned back to Cloghan Kincat. And 
when they had come to the beach, Feradach told them 
to cover their heads; and they did so. Then he 
struck three blows of his axe on the crann-tavall ; 
after which he bade them look. And lo, they saw a 
ship, fully fitted out with oars and sails, and with all 
things needed for a long voyage, riding before them 
in the harbour ! 

Then Kylta Mac Ronan went to the top of a high 
hill ; and, turning his face inland, he uttered three 
mighty shouts, which were taken up by the people of 
the next, valley, and after them by those of the next 
valley beyond. And so the signal spread, till a shout of 
alarm was heard in every plain and hill-side, glen and 
valley, wood and wilderness, in the two provinces of 
Munster. And when the Fena heard these shouts, they 
ceased anon from their sports and pastimes ; for they 
knew their king was in danger or strait of some kind. 
And they formed themselves into ranks and troops 
and battalions, and began their march ; and it is not 
told how they fared till they reached Cloghan Kincat. 

Finn told them the whole story of the Gilla 
Dacker and his horse, and how he had carried away 
Conan and fifteen others to some far-off island in the 
Western Ocean. He also showed them the ship, and 
told them that he himself and a chosen band of the 
Fena were about to sail westward in quest of their 


And Oisin asked him how many of the chief men 
of the Fena he wished to take with him. 

Finn replied, " I foresee that this will be a perilous 
quest; and I think all the chiefs here present few 
enough to bring with me." 

" Say not so, king," said Oisin ; " too many have 
gone already, and some must be left behind to guard 
the country, and to keep order. If fifteen good men 
go with you, and that you find the others, the whole 
party will be a match for any foe you are like to meet 
in these western lands." 

And Oscar and Gaul Mac Morna spoke in like 

To this Finn agreed. Then he picked out fifteen 
men, the bravest and best, the most dexterous at the 
sword, and the swiftest of foot among the Fena. 

The question then arose, who should lead the Fena 
in the king's absence ; and what they agreed on was 
that Oisin should remain behind and take command, 
as he was the eldest and bravest and wisest of the 
king's sons. 

Of those who were chosen to go with Finn, the 
chief men were Dermat O'Dyna; Gaul Mac Morna; 
Oscar, the son of Oisin ; Aed Beg, the son of Finn ; 
Fergus Finnvel, the poet ; the three sons of Encarda ; 
and Feradach and Foltiebar, the two sons of the king 
of Innia. 

So the king and his party took leave of Oisin and 
the rest. And sad, indeed, were they on both sides ; 
for no one knew how far the king might hare to sail 


among unknown seas and islands, or how long he 
should be away from Erin, or the spells and dangers 
he and his men might encounter in this pursuit. 

Then they went on board, and launched their ship 
on the cold, bright sea ; and Foltlebar was their pilot 
and steersman. And they set their sail and plied 
their slender oars, and the ship moved swiftly west- 
ward till they lost sight of the shores of Erin ; and 
they saw nothing all round them but a wide girdle of 
sea. After some days' sailing, a great storm came from 
the west, and the black waves rose up against them, 
so that they had much ado to keep their vessel from 
sinking. But through all the roaring of the tempest, 
through the rain and blinding spray, Foltlebar never 
stirred from the helm or changed his course, but still 
kept close on the track of the Gilla Backer. 

At length the storm abated, and the sea grew 
calm. And when the darkness had cleared away, 
they saw to the west, a little way off, a vast rocky cliff 
towering over their heads to such a height, that its 
head seemed hidden among the clouds. It rose up 
sheer from the very water, and looked at that distance 
as smooth as glass, so that at first sight there seemed 
no way to reach the top. 

Foltlebar, after examining to the four points of 
the sky, found the track of the Gilla Backer as far 
as the cliff, but no farther. And he accordingly told 
the heroes that he thought it was on the top of 
that rock the giant lived; and that, anyhow, the 
horse must have made his way up the face of the 
cliff with their companions. 


When the heroes heard this they were greatly 
cast down and puzzled what to do ; for they saw 
no way of reaching the top of the rock; and they 
feared they should have to give up the quest and 
return without their companions. And they sat down 
and looked up at the cliff, with sorrow and vexation 
in their hearts. 



WHEN now they had been silent for a time, Fergus 
Finnvel, the poet, arose and said 

" My friends, we have here amongst us one who 
has been fostered and taught from the child to the 
man, by Mannanan Mac Lir 8 in Fairyland, and by 
Angus, 1 the wisest of the Dedannans, at Bruga of the 
Boyne. He has been carefully trained by both in 
everything a warrior should learn, and in much 
druidical lore besides ; so that he is skilled beyond 
us all in manly arts and champion-feats. But now 
it seems that all his arts and accomplishments go 
for nought, seeing that he is unable to make use of 
them just at the time that we stand most in need 
of them. On the top of that rock, doubtless, the 
Gilla Backer lives, and there he holds Conan and 
the others in bondage ; and surely this hero, who now 


sits idly with us here in our ship, should be able to 
climb up the face of that cliff, and bring us back 
tidings of our dear friends and companions." 

When Dermat O'Dyna heard this speech, his 
cheek grew red with shame, and he made this 

" It is of me you have spoken these words, Fergus. 
Your reproaches are just; and though the task is 
hard, I will attempt to follow the track of the Gilla 
Backer, and find out some tidings of our friends." 

So saying, Dermat arose, and girded on his 
armour, and put on his glittering helmet. He hung 
his sword at his left hip ; and he took his two long, 
deadly spears, one in each hand, namely, the Crann- 
boi and the Ga-derg ; * and the battle-fury of a warrior 
descended on him, so that he looked a dreadful foe to 
meet in single combat. 

Then, leaning on the handles of his spears, after 
the manner of skilful champions, he leaped with a 
light, airy bound on the nearest shelf of rock. And 
using his spears and his hands, he climbed from ledge 
to ledge, while his companions watched him anxiously 
from below; till, after much toil, he measured the 
soles of his two feet on the green sod at the top 
of the rock. And when, recovering breath, he turned 
round and looked at his companions in the ship far 
below, he started back with amazement and dread at 
the dizzy height. 

He now looked inland, and saw a beautiful country 

* See note, page 302. 


spread out before him: a lovely, flowery plain 
straight in front, bordered with pleasant hills, and 
shaded with groves of many kinds of trees. It was 
enough to banish all care and sadness from one's heart 
to view this country, and to listen to the warbling of 
the birds, the humming of the bees among the flowers, 
the rustling of the wind through the trees, and the 
pleasant voices of the streams and waterfalls. 

Making no delay, Dermat set out to walk across 
the plain. He had not been long walking when he 
saw, right before him, a great tree laden with fruit, 
overtopping all the other trees of the plain. It was 
surrounded at a little distance by a circle of pillar- 
stones; and one stone, taller than the others, stood 
in the centre near the tree. Beside this pillar-stone 
was a spring well, with a large, round pool as clear 
as crystal; and the water bubbled up in the centre, 
and flowed away towards the middle of the plain in 
a slender stream. 

Dermat was glad when he saw the well ; for he 
was hot and thirsty after climbing up the cliff. He 
stooped down to take a drink; but before his lips 
touched the water, he heard the heavy tread of a 
body of warriors, and the loud clank of arms, as if 
a whole host were coming straight down on him. 
He sprang to his feet and looked round ; but the 
noise ceased in an instant, and he could see nothing. 

After a little while he stooped again to drink; 
and again, before he had wet his lips, he heard the 
veiy same sounds, nearer and louder than before. A 


second time he leaped to his feet ; and still he saw no 
one. He knew not what to think of this; and as he 
stood wondering and perplexed, he happened to cast 
his eyes on the tall pillar-stone that stood on the 
brink of the well; and he saw on its top a large, 
beautiful drinking-horn, chased with gold and 
enamelled with precious stones. 

"Now surely," said Dermat, "I have been doing, 
wrong ; it is, no doubt, one of the virtues of this well 
that it will not let any one drink of its waters except 
from the drinking-horn." 

So he took down the horn, dipped it into the 
well, and drank without hindrance, till he had slaked 
his thirst. 

Scarcely had he taken the horn from his lips, 
when he saw a tall wizard-champion* coming towards 
him from the east, clad in a . complete suit of mail, 
and fully armed with shield and helmet, sword and 
spear. A beautiful scarlet mantle hung over his 
armour, fastened at his throat by a golden brooch ; 
and a broad circlet of sparkling gold was bended in 
front across his forehead, to confine his yellow hair, 
and keep it from being blown about by the wind. 
As he came nearer, he increased his pace, moving 

* The original word, which I have translated " wizard-champion," 
is gruagach. This word literally means " hairy," " a hairy fellow ; " 
and it is often used in the sense of " giant." But in these romantic 
tales it is commonly used to signify a champion who has always 
something of the supernatural about him, yet not to such a degree 
as to shield him completely from the valour of a great mortal 
hero like Dermat O'Dyna. 


with great strides ; and Dermat now observed that he 
Looked very wrathful. He offered no greeting, and 
showed not the least courtesy ; but addressed Dermat 
in a rough, angry voice 

" Surely, Dermat O'Dyna, Erin of the green plains 
should be wide enough for you ; and it contains abun- 
dance of clear, sweet water in its crystal springs and 
green bordered streams, from which you might have 
drunk your fill. But you have come into my island 
without my leave, and you have taken my drinking- 
horn, and have drunk from my well ; and this spot 
you shall never leave till you have given me satis- 
faction for the insult." 

So spoke the wizard-champion, and instantly 
advanced on Dermat with fury in his eyes. But 
Dermat was not the man to be terrified by any hero 
or wizard- champion alive. He met the foe half-way ; 
and now, foot to foot, and knee to knee, and face to 
face, they began a fight, watchful and wary at first, 
but soon hot and vengeful, till their shields and 
helmets could scarce withstand their strong thrusts 
and blows. Like two enraged lions fightftng to the 
death, or two strong serpents intertwined in deadly 
strife, or two great opposing billows thundering 
against each other on the ocean border ; such was the 
strength and fury and determination of the combat 
of these two heroes. 

And so they fought through the long day, till 
evening came, and it began to be dusk; when sud- 
denly the wizard-champion sprang outside the range 


of Dermat's sword, and leaping up with a great 
bound, he alighted in the very centre of the well. 
Down he went through it, and disappeared in a 
moment before Dermat's eyes, as if the well had 
swallowed him up. Dermat stood on the brink, 
leaning on his spear, amazed and perplexed, looking 
after him in the water; but whether the hero had 
meant to drown himself, or that he had played some 
wizard trick, Dermat knew not. 

He sat down to rest, full of vexation that the 
wizard-champion should have got off so easily. And 
what chafed him still more was that the Fena knew 
nought of what had happened, and that when he 
returned, he could tell them nothing of the strange 
hero ; neither had he the least token or trophy to show 
them after his long fight. 

Then he began to think what was best to be done ; 
and he made up his mind to stay near the well all 
night, with the hope of finding out something further 
about the wizard-champion on the morrow. 

He walked towards the nearest point of a great 
forest that stretched from the mountain down to the 
plain on his left; and as he came near, a herd of 
speckled deer ran by among the trees. He put his 
finger into the silken loop of his spear, and, throwing 
it with an unerring cast, brought down the nearest of 
the herd. 

Then, having lighted a fire under a tree, he skinned 
the deer and fixed it on long hazel spits to roast> 
having first, however, gone to the well, and brought 


away the drinking-horn full of water. And he sat 
beside the roasting deer to turn it and tend the fire, 
waiting impatiently for his meal ; for he was hungry 
and tired after the toil of the day. 

When the deer was cooked, he ate till he was 
satisfied, and drank the clear water of the well from 
the drinking-horn ; after which he lay down under the 
shade of the tree, beside the fire, and slept a sound 
sleep till morning. 

Night passed away and the sun rose, bringing 
morning with its abundant light. Dermat started up, 
refreshed after his long sleep, and, repairing to the 
forest, he slew another deer, and fixed it on hazel 
spits to roast at the fire as before. For Dermat had 
this custom, that he would never eat of any food left 
from a former meaL 

And after he had eaten of the deer's flesh and 
drunk from the horn, he went towards the well. But 
though his visit was early, he found the wizard- 
champion there before him, standing beside the pillar- 
stone, fully armed as before, and looking now more 
wrathful than ever. Dermat was much surprised ; but 
before he had time to speak the wizard-champion 
addressed him 

" Dermat O'Dyna, you have now put the cap on all 
your evil deeds. It was not enough that you took my 
drinking-horn and drank from my well : you have 
done much worse than this, for you have hunted on 
my grounds, and have killed some of my speckled 
deer. Surely there are many hunting-grounds in 


Erin of the green plains, with plenty of deer in them ; 
and you need not have come hither to commit these 
robberies on me. But now for a certainty you shall 
not go from this spot till I have taken revenge fo^ 
all these misdeeds." 

And again the two champions attacked each other 
and fought during the long day, from morning till 
evening. And when the dusk began to fall, the 
wizard-champion leaped into the well, and disappeared 
down through it, even as he had done the day before. 

The selfsame thing happened on the third day. 
And each day, morning and evening, Dermat killed a 
deer, and ate of its flesh, and drank of the water of the 
well from the drinking-horn. 

On the fourth morning, Dermat found the wizard- 
champion standing as usual by the pillar-stone near 
the well. And as each morning he looked more angry 
than on the morning before, so now he scowled in a 
way that would have terrified any one but Dermat 

And they fought during the day till the dusk oi 
evening. But now Dermat watched his foe narrowly ; 
and when he saw him about to spring into the well, he 
closed on him and threw his arms round him. The 
wizard-champion struggled to free himself, moving all 
the time nearer and nearer to the brink ; but Dermat 
held on, till at last both fell into the well. Down they 
went, clinging to each other, Dermat and the wizard- 
champion ; down, down, deeper and deeper they went; 
and Dermat tried to look round, but nothing could he 


see save darkness and dim shadows. At length there 
was a glimmer of light; then the bright day burst 
suddenly upon them ; and presently they came to the 
solid ground, gently and without the least shock. 



AT the very moment they reached the ground, the 
wizard-champion, with a sudden effort, tore himself 
away from Dermat's grasp and ran forward with great 
speed. Dermat leaped to his feet; and he was so 
amazed at what he saw around him that he stood 
stock still and let the wizard-champion escape : a 
lovely country, with many green-sided hills and fair 
valleys between, woods of red yew trees, and plains 
laughing all over with flowers of every hue. 

Right before him, not far off, lay a city of great 
tall houses with glittering roofs ; and on the side 
nearest to him was a royal palace, larger and grander 
than the rest. On the level green in front of the 
palace were a number of knights, all armed, and 
amusing themselves with various warlike exercises 
of sword and shield and spear. 

Straight towards this assembly the wizard-cham- 

* Tir-fa-tonn, literally " the country beneath the wave." (See 
note 13 at the end.) 


pion ran; which, when Dermat saw, he set off in 
pursuit, hoping to overtake him. But the wizard- 
champion had too long a start, and when he reached 
the exercise green, the knights opened to the right 
and left, leaving a broad way through which he 
rushed. He never halted or looked behind till he had 
got inside the palace gate; and the moment he had 
passed in, the knights closed their ranks, and stood 
facing Dermat with threatening looks and gestures. 

Nothing daunted, Dermat held on his pace towards 
them; and now those of the front rank started for- 
ward with spears and swords, intending to crush him 
at once, and hew his body to mincemeat. But it was 
not terror nor weakness nor a desire of flight that this 
produced in Dermat, for his battle-fury was on him ; 
and he rushed through them and under them and 
over them, as a hawk rushes among a flight of spar- 
rows, or like a whale through a shoal of little fishes, 
or like a raging wolf among a flock of sheep, or like 
a vast billow among a fleet of small vessels, or like a 
great brown torrent rushing down the steep side of 
a mountain, that sweeps everything headlong before it. 
So did Dermat cleave a wide laneway through the 
hosts, till, from a solid band of warriors, he turned 
them into a scattered crowd, flying in all directions. 
And those that did not fall by his hand, ran hither 
and thither, some to hide themselves in the thick 
forests and remote, wooded glens of the surrounding 
country; while others rushed in through the outer 
p-ate of the palace, and shut themselves up in the 


strongest part of the fortress, neither did they deem 
themselves safe till they had shot home every bolt, 
and securely fastened every strong iron lock. 

At last not a living soul remained on the green, 
and Dermat sat down, weary after his battle-toil, and 
smarting all over with wounds. He was grieved and 
downcast also, for he knew not where he was, and he 
saw no chance that he should be able either to find any 
tidings of the friends he was in search of, or to return 
to his companions in the ship. 

At length, being quite overcome with weariness, he 
fell into a deep sleep. After sleeping for some time, he 
was awakened by a smart blow. He started up, and 
saw a young man standing over him, tall, and of a 
commanding appearance, with long, golden hair, and a 
manly, open countenance. Now this young man had 
come to Dermat, and finding him asleep in such a dan- 
gerous place, he struck him with the flat of his sword 
to awaken him. In an instant Dermat sprang to his 
feet and seized his arms ; but the youth addressed him 
in a friendly voice, and said 

"Dermat O'Dyna, put up your arms; I am no 
enemy, and I have come, not to harm, but to serve 
you. This, indeed, is a strange place for you to fall 
asleep, before the very door of the castle, and within 
sight of your enemies. Come now with me, and I will 
give you a better place to sleep in, where you will also 
get a welcome and kindly entertainment." 

This speech pleased Dermat very much ; and he 
thanked the young man and went with him. After 


walking for some time, they came to a large splendi 
house, and passing through the outer gate they entered 
the banqueting hall. There they found a noble com- 
pany of twelve score and ten knights, and almost as 
many beautiful ladies, with their long hair falling on 
their shoulders, shining like the golden flower of the 
marsh-flag, and gentle and modest in their looks and 
conversation. They wore mantles of scarlet satin, 
and each mantle was fastened in front by a brooch 
of burnished gold. 

The company sat at tables round the walls of the 
banquet hall, some feasting, some playing chess, and 
some listening to the music of harps. When the two 
heroes entered, all the knights and ladies rose and 
received them with much respect, and they welcomed 
Dermat and invited him to join their entertainment. 
But the young prince for he was in truth a prince 
pointing to Dermat's clothes and arms, all soiled 
and stained, told them that he had endured much 
toil that day, and that he wanted rest and refresh- 

He then brought Dermat away, and ordered the 
attendants to prepare a bath in a great caldron. He 
put soothing balsams and healing herbs into it with 
his own hands, and when Dermat had bathed he was 
immediately healed of his wounds, and he came forth 
refreshed and cheerful. The prince then directed that 
his clothes should be put aside, and had him clad in 
rich garments like the others. 

Dermat now joined the company, and ate anci 


drank, for he had taken neither food nor drink since 
he had made his meal on the deer early that morning 
near the well ; after which he talked and was cheerful 
with the others. Then rose up the harpers, and the 
professors of divers arts and sciences, and one after 
another they played their sweet music, and recited 
their poems and their tales of the heroes of the olden 
time. And when they had ended, the knights gave 
them gifts of gold and silver and jewels. At last the 
company broke up, and Dermat was shown to a bed 
richly ornamented, and soft with the red feathers of 
wild fowl, and soon he fell into a sound sleep after his 
long day's adventures. 

Now Dermat marvelled much at all he saw and 
heard; and he knew not what place he was in, or who 
the people were, that had treated him with such kind- 
ness. So next morning, when the company had again 
assembled, he stood up, and addressed the prince with 
gentle words and modest demeanour ; and this is what 
he said 

" I am much surprised, O prince, at what I have 
seen, and at all that has befallen me in this land- 
Though I am here a stranger, thou hast shown me 
much kindness, end these noble knights and ladies 
have permitted me to ioin their sports, and have 
treated me with much gentleness and consideration. 
I wish to know, then, who thou art, prince, and what 
country this is, of which I have never before heard, 
and who is the king thereof. Tell me also, I pray 
thee, the name of the champion who fought with me 


for four days at the well, till at last he escaped from 
me at the palace." 

The prince replied, " I will tell you all, Dermat, as 
you have asked, concealing nothing. This country is 
Tir-fa-tonn; the champion who fought with you is 
called the Knight of the Fountain, and that very 
champion is king of this land. I am the brother of 
the king, and my name is the Knight of Valour. 
Good reason indeed have I to be kind to you, Dermat 
O'Dyna, for though you do not remember me, I spent 
a year and a day in the household of Finn the son of 

" A part of this kingdom belongs by right to me. 
But the king and his son have seized on my patrimony, 
and have banished me from the palace, forcing me to 
live here in exile with a few of my faithful followers. 

" It is my intention, however, to make war on the 
king for my part of the kingdom; and right glad I am 
that you have come hither, for I would rather have 
you on my side than all the other Fena put together, 
for your nobleness of mind and your valour in battle. 

" I have here in my household seven score and ten 
heroes, all champions of great deeds ; and if you con- 
sent to aid me, these shall be placed under your com- 
mand. By day you shall fight against the king of 
Tir-fa-tonn and his son, and by night you shall feast 
and rest and sleep with me in this palace. If you 
enter into friendship with me and fight on my side, 
well I know that I shall win back my right without 


Dermat agreed to this. So he and the Knight of 
Valolir made a covenant ; and, placing hand in hand, 
they pledged themselves to observe faithfully the 
conditions of the league of friendship. 



As to Finn Mac Cumal and those that remained behind 
with him in the ship, I will now relate what befell 

It was now many days since Dermat had left them, 
and they marvelled much that he did not return with 
tidings of the Gilla Dacker. At length, when they 
began to be alarmed, the two sons of the king of Innia 
offered to go in search of him; but Finn said no, 
for that they should all go together. 

So Feradach and Foltlebar. took all the cables and 
ropes they could find in the ship, and tied them end 
to end in hard, sure knots, till they had a rope long 
enough to reach from the top of the rock to the 
bottom. Then they clambered up the steep face of 
the cliff, bringing with them the end of the rope ; and 
one by one they drew up Finn and the rest. And 
when they looked round, they were as much surprised 
and delighted as Dermat was at the look of the 


Foltlebar now made a search, and soon found the 
track of Dermat ; and the whole party set out to walk 
across the plain, Foltlebar leading the way. Having 
travelled some distance, they saw the great fruit tree 
afar off; and, turning to the left, they found a place 
where a fire had been lighted, and near it the remains 
of several meals of deer's flesh. By this they knew 
that it was here Dermat had slept, for all were well 
aware of his custom not to eat of what was left from 
a meal 

They then went towards the tree, and there they 
found the traces of deadly combat the ground all 
trampled and ploughed up, and a broken spear handle 
lying at the brink of the well. While they stood 
pondering on these things, with anxious hearts, they 
saw a horseman at a distance, speeding towards them 
across the plain. In a little while he came up and 
reined in. 

He was a young man of majestic mien, fair and 
noble of countenance ; and he rode a beautiful chest- 
nut steed, with a bridle of twisted gold, and a saddle 
of surpassing splendour, ornamented all over with 
gold and jewels. 

He alighted and saluted Finn and the Fena, and 
bold them they were welcome to his country, for that 
he was king ; and he put his hand on Finn's neck and 
kissed his cheek three times. Then he invited them 
to go with him, saying that the Plain of the Fountain 
was a comfortless resting-place after a long journey. 

Finn's heart was glad at this, for he and his com- 


panions were weary ; and they set out to walk across 
the plain with the young king. Having walked a 
good distance, they came in sight of a noble palace, 
with tall towers and carved froni As they came near, 
they were met by a company of knights on the level 
green in front, who welcomed them with gentle words. 
And so they passed into the palace. . A bath was pre- 
pared, and they bathed and were refreshed after their 
toils. Then they sat down to supper; and while they 
ate and drank, the harpers played for them, and the 
poets told their tales and sang their songs. 

They slept that night in the palace; and next 
day they mingled with the knights on the green, 
and took part in their games and pastimes. In the 
evening they sat down to a feast. The people of the 
palace were ranged at tables according to rank and 
inheritance, every man in his proper place. 

Then the feast went on; and abundance of the 
newest food and of the oldest drink was served out ; 
and they ate of the savoury food, and drank of the 
sparkling wines and of the strong ales, till they 
became merry and gently intoxicated. And Finn 
could not call to mind that he ever saw an entertain- 
ment in the house of either king or chief better 
ordered. In this manner they were feasted and 
entertained for three days and three nights. 

At the end of that time a meeting was held by 
the king on the palace green. And Finn stood up 
and said 

" Tell me, I pray thee, thy name and the name of 


this country, which I have never seen before, or even 
heard o" 

" This country," replied the king, " is called Sorca, 
of which I am king ; and although you know us not, 
we know you well, for the fame of your deeds has 
reached even to this land. But now I wish to know 
why you have come hither ; also the reason why you 
have brought so few companions, and where the rest 
have tarried." 

Then Finn told him the whole story from begin- 
ning to end; how the Gilla Dacker and his great 
horse had carried off sixteen of their chief men ; " And," 
added Finn, " I and these fifteen companions of mine 
are now in quest of them." 

The king replied, " This is a dangerous under- 
taking ; and you and your fifteen men, valiant even 
as you are, are too few to venture into unknown lands, 
where you may meet with many enemies. Now my 
knights are brave and generous, and they love battle 
and adventure. Wherefore I will place a band of them 
under your command, who will follow you whither- 
soever you go, and who will not be behindhand even 
with the Fena in facing hardship and danger." 

Finn stood up to thank the king; but before he 
had time to speak, they saw a messenger speeding 
towards them across the plain from the north-west, 
breathless, and begrimed all over with mud and dust. 
When he had come in presence of the company, he 
bowed low to the king, and, standing up, waited 
impatient for leave to speak. 


The king asked him what news he had brought 
and he replied 

" Bad and direful news I have for thee, O king. A 
foreign fleet has come to our shores, which seems to 
cover all the sea, even as far as the eye can reach ; 
and until the stars of heaven are counted, and the 
sands of the sea, and the leaves of the woods, the hosts 
that are landing from their black ships shall not be 
numbered. Even already they have let loose their 
plunderers over the country, who are burning and 
spoiling the farmsteads and the great mansions ; and 
many noble heroes and keepers of houses of hospi- 
tality, and many people of the common sort, have 
been slain by them. Some say that it is the King 
of the World and his host, who, after conquering every 
country he has yet visited, has come now to ravage 
this land with fire and sword and spear, and bring it 
under his power; but I know not if this be true. 
And this, O king, is the news I bring thee." 

When the messenger had ended, the king spoke 
nought, though his countenance, indeed, showed 
trouble ; but he looked earnestly at Finn. Finn 
understood this to mean that the king sought his 
help ; and, with clear voice, he spoke 

"Thou hast been generous to me and my people 
in our day of need, king of Sorca ; and now thou 
shalt not find the Fena lacking in grateful memory 
of thy kindness. We will, for a time, give up the 
pursuit of the Gilla Dacker, and we will place our- 
selves under thy command, and help thee against 


these marauders. Neither do I fear the outcome of 
this war; for many a time have we met these 
foreigners on the shores of Erin and elsewhere, and 
they have always yielded to us in the battle-field." 

The king of Sorca was glad of heart when he 
heard these words ; and he sent his swift scouts all 
over the country to gather his fighting men. And 
when all had come together, he arranged them in 
fighting order, and marched towards the shore where 
the foreigners were spoiling the land. And they met 
the plundering parties, and drove them with great 
slaughter back to their ships, retaking all the spoils. 

Then they formed an encampment on the shore, 
with ramparts and deep ditches and long rows of 
pointed stakes all round. And each day a party of 
the foreigners landed, led by one of their captains, 
who were met by an equal number ol. the men of 
Sorca, led by one of the Fena ; and each time they 
were driven back to their ships, after losing their best 

When, now, this had continued for many days, 
the King of the World called a meeting of the chiefs 
of his army, and asked their counsel as to what should 
be done. And they spoke as one man, that their best 
chiefs had fallen, and that they were in worse case 
now for overcoming the men of Sorca than they were 
at first ; that their sages and prophets had declared 
against them; and that they had met with ill luck 
from the day of their arrival. And the advice they 
gave the king was to depart from the shores of Sorca, 


for there seemed no chance of conquering the country 
as long as the Fena were there to help the king. 

So the king ordered the sails to be set, and he left 
the harbour in the night with his whole fleet, without 
bringing the king of Sorca under subjection, and 
without imposing tribute on the people. 



WHEN the people of Sorca and the Fena arose next 
morning, not a ship was in sight ; and they began 
to rejoice greatly, finding themselves freed from this 
invasion. And while the king and Finn, with the 
chiefs and people, stood eagerly conversing on all these 
matters, they saw a troop at a distance coming towards 
them, with banners and standards and arms glittering 
in the morning sun. Now they wondered much who 
these might be ; and Finn desired that some one might 
go and bring back tidings. 

So Fergus Finnvel went with a few followers, and 
when he was yet a good way off, he knew Dermat 
O'Dyna at the head of the troop, and ran forward- 
with joy to meet him. And they embraced, even as 
brothers embrace who meet after being long parted. 
Then they came towards the assembly ; and when the 
Fena saw Dermat they shouted with joy and welcome 


And Dennat, on his part, could scarce restrain the 
excess of his joyfulness ; for, indeed, he did not expect 
to meet his friends so soon; and he embraced them 
one by one, with glad heart, beginning with Finn. 

Then Finn inquired from Dennat all particulars, 
what places he had visited since the day he had 
climbed up the rock, and whether he had heard any 
news of their lost companions ; and he asked him also 
who were they those valiant-looking fighting men 
he had brought with him. 

Dermat told him of all his adventures from first to 
last of his long combat at the well with the Knight 
of the Fountain, of his descent to Tir-fa-tonn, and how 
the Knight of Valour had entertained him hospitably 
in his palace. He related also how he headed the men 
of the Knight of Valour, and made war on the king 
of Tir-fa-tonn (who was also called the Knight of the 
Fountain, the wizard-champion who fought with 
Dermat at the well), whom he slew, and defeated his 

"And now," continued he, bringing forth the Knight 
of Valour from among the strange host, " this is he 
who was formerly called the Knight of Valour, but 
who is now the king of Tir-fa-tonn. Moreover, this 
king has told me, having himself found it out by his 
druidical art, that it was Avarta the Dedannan (the 
son of Illahan of the Many-coloured Raiment) who 
took the form of the Gilla Dacker, and who brought 
the sixteen Fena away to the Land of Promise, 8 where 
he now holds them in bondage." 


Finn and the young king then put hand in hand 
and made covenants of lasting friendship with each 
other. And the Fena were much rejoiced that they 
had at last got some tidings of their lost companions. 



Now after they had rested some days in the palace of 
the king of Sorca, Fergus Finnvel told Finn that it 
was time to begin once more their quest after Conan 
and the others. They held council, therefore ; and the 
resolution they came to was to return to the rock at 
the spot where they had turned aside from the track 
of the Gilla Dacker, and to begin their search anew 
from that. And when both the king of Sorca and 
the king of Tir-fa-tonn would have sent men with 
them, Finn thanked them, but said that the small 
party of Fena he had with him were quite enough for 
that adventure. 

So they took leave of the two kings, and went 
back to the rock, and Foltlebar at once found the 
track. He traced it from the very edge of the rock 
across the plain to the sea at the other side ; and they 
brought round their ship and began their voyage. 
But this time Foltlebar found it very hard to keep on 
the track ; for the Gilla Dacker, knowing that there 


were not in the world men more skilled in following 
up a quest than the Fena, took great pains to hide 
all traces of the flight of himself and his horse ; so 
that Foltlebar was often thrown out ; but he always 
recovered the track after a little time. 

And so they sailed from island to island, and from 
bay to bay, over many seas and by many shores, ever 
following the track, till at length they arrived at the 
Land of Promise. And when they had made the land, 
and knew for a certainty that this was indeed the 
Land of Promise, they rejoiced greatly; for in this 
land Dennat O'Dyna had been nurtured by Mannanan 
Mac Lir of the Yellow Hair. 

Then they held council as to what was best to be 
done ; and Finn's advice was that they should burn 
and spoil the country, in revenge of the outrage that 
had been done to his people. Dennat, however, would 
not hear of this. And he said 

" Not so, king. The people of this land are of all 
men the most skilled in druidic art ; and it is not well 
that they should be at feud with us. Let us rather 
send to Avarta a trusty herald, to demand that he 
should set our companions at liberty. If he does so, 
then we shall be at peace ; if he refuse, then shall we 
proclaim war against him and his people, and waste 
this land with fire and sword, till he be forced, even 
by his own people, to give us back our friends." 

This advice was approved by all And then Finn 

" But how shall heralds reach the dwelling of this 


enchanter; for the ways are not open and straight, as 
in other lands, but crooked and made for concealment, 
and the valleys and plains are dim and shadowy, and 
hard to be traversed ? " 

But Foltlebar, nothing daunted by the dangers 
and the obscurity of the way, offered to go with a 
single trusty companion ; and they took up the track 
and followed it without being once thrown out, till 
they reached the mansion of Avarta. There they 
found their friends amusing themselves on the green 
outside the palace walls ; for, though kept captive in 
the island, yet were they in no wise restrained, but 
were treated by Avarta with much kindness. When 
they saw the heralds coming towards them, their joy 
knew no bounds; they crowded round to embrace 
them, and asked them many questions regarding their 
home and their friends. 

At last Avarta himself came forth, and asked who 
these strangers were ; and Foltlebar replied 

" We are of the people of Finn Mac Gumal, who 
has sent us as heralds to thee. He and his heroes 
have landed on this island, guided hither by me ; and 
he bade us tell thee that he has come to wage war 
and to waste this land with fire and sword, as a 
punishment for that thou hast brought away his 
people by foul spells, and even now keepest them in 

When Avarta heard this, he made no reply, but 
called a council of his chief men, to consider whether 
-they should send back to Finn an answer of war or 


of peace. And they, having much fear of the Fena, 
were minded to restore Finn's people, and to give him 
his own award in satisfaction for the injury done to 
him ; and to invite Finn himself and those who had 
come with him to a feast of joy and friendship in the 
house of Avarta. 

Avarta himself went with Foltlebar to give this 
message. And after he and Finn had exchanged 
friendly greetings, he told them what the council had 
resolved ; and Finn and Dermat and the others were 
glad at heart. And Finn and Avarta put hand in 
hand, and made a league of friendship. 

So they went with Avarta to his house, where 
they found their lost friends ; and, being full of glad- 
ness, they saluted and embraced each other. Then a 
feast was prepared ; and they were feasted for three 
days, and they ate and drank and made merry. 

On the fourth day, a meeting was called on the 
green to hear the award. Now it was resolved to 
make amends on the one hand to Finn, as king of the 
Fena, and on the other, to those who had been brought 
away by the Gilla Dacker. And when all were 
gathered together, Finn was first asked to name his 
award ; and this is what he said 

"I shall not name an award, O Avarta; neither 
shall I accept an eric from thee. But the wages I 
promised thee when we made our covenant at Knock - 
ainy, that I will give thee. For I am thankful for the 
welcome thou hast given us here; and I wish that 
there should be peace and friendship between us for 


But Conan, on his part, was not so easily satisfied ; 
and he said to Finn 

"Little hast thou endured, Finn, in all this 
matter ; and thou mayst well waive thy award. But 
hadst thou, like us, suffered from the sharp bones and 
the rough carcase of the Gilla Backer's monstrous 
horse, in a long journey from Erin to the Land of 
Promise, across wide seas, through tangled woods, and 
over rough-headed rocks, thou wouldst then, methinks, 
name an 1 award." 

At this, Avarta, and the others who had seen 
Conan and his companions carried off on the back of 
the big horse, could scarce keep from laughing; and 
Avarta said to Conan 

" Name thy award, and I will fulfil it every jot : 
for I have heard of thee, Conan, and I dread to bring 
the gibes and taunts of thy foul tongue on myself and 
my people." 

" Well then," said Conan, " my award is this : that 
you choose fifteen of the best and noblest men in the 
Land of Promise, among whom are to be your own 
best beloved friends ; and that you cause them to 
mount on the back of the big horse, and that you 
yourself take hold of his tail. In this manner you 
shall fare to Erin, back again by the selfsame track 
the horse took when he brought us hither through 
the same surging seas, through the same thick thorny 
woods, and over the same islands and rough rocks and 
dark glens. And this, O Avarta, is my award," said 


Now Finn and his people were rejoiced exceedingly 
when they heard Conan's award that he asked from 
Avarta nothing more than like for like. For they 
feared much that he might claim treasure of gold and 
silver, and thus bring reproach on the Fena. 

Avarta promised that everything required by 
Conan should be done, binding himself in solemn 
pledges. Then the heroes took their leave; and 
having launched their ship on the broad, green sea, 
they sailed back by the same course to Erin. And 
they marched to their camping-place at Knockainy, 
where they rested in their tents. 

Avarta then chose his men. And he placed them 
on the horse's back, and he himself caught hold of 
the tail ; and it is not told how they fared till they 
made harbour and landing-place at Cloghan Kincat. 
They delayed not, but straightway journeyed over the 
selfsame track as before, till they reached Knockainy. 

Finn and his people saw them afar off coming 
towards the hill with great speed ; the Gilla Backer, 
quite as large and as ugly as ever, running before the 
horse ; for he had let go the tail at Cloghan Kincat. 
And the Fena could not help laughing heartily when 
they saw the plight of the fifteen chiefs on the great 
horse's back ; and they said with one voice that 
Conan had made a good award that time. 

When the horse reached the spot from which he 
had at first set out, the men began to dismount. Then 
the Gilla Dacker, suddenly stepping forward, held up 
his arm and pointed earnestly over the heads of the 


Fena towards the field where the horses were standing ; 
so that the heroes were startled, and turned round 
every man to look. But nothing was to be seen 
except the horses grazing quietly inside the fence. 

Finn and the others now turned round again, with 
intent to speak to the Gilla Backer and bring him 
and his people into the tents; but much did they 
marvel to find them all gone. The Gilla Dacker and 
his great horse and the fifteen nobles of the Land ot 
Promise had disappeared in an instant; and neither 
Finn himself nor any of his chiefs ever saw then 

So far we have related the story of ths nursuit of 
the Gilla Dacker and his norae. 




UN a certain day, Finn, the eon of Cumal, rooe at early 
morn in Allen of the broad hill-slopes, and, going forth, 
sat him down on the green lawn before the palace, 
without companion or attendant. And two of his 
people followed him, namely, Oisin his son, and Bering 
the son of Dobar O'Baskin. 

Oisin spoke to him and asked, "Why, king, 
hast thou come forth so early ? " 

" Cause enough have I indeed," replied Finn ; " i^r 
I am without a wife since Manissa, the daughter oi 
Garad of the Black Knee, died ; and who can enjoy 
sweet sleep when his life is lonely like mine, with no 
wife to comfort and cheer him ? This, my friends, is 
the cause of my early rising." 

And Oisin said, " Why should you be without a 
wife if you desire one ? For there is not, within the 
sea-circle of green Erin, a maiden that we will not 


bring you, either by consent or by force, if you only 
turn the light of your eyes on her." 

Then Bering spoke and said, " I know where there 
is a maiden, who in all respects is worthy to be thy 

And when Finn asked who she was, Bering 

" The maiden is Grania, daughter of king Cor- 
mac, 22 the son of Art, the son of Conn the Hundred- 
fighter ; the most beautiful, the best instructed, and 
the most discreet in speech and manner of all the 
maidens of Erin." 

" There has been strife between me and Cormac for 
a long time," said Finn, " and it may happen that he 
will not give me his daughter in marriage. But go ye 
to Tara in my name, you and Oisin, and ask the 
maiden for me : if the king should refuse, so let it be ; 
but I can better bear a refusal to you than to myself." 

" We will go," said Oisin ; " but it is better that no 
man know of our journey till we return." 

So the two heroes took leave of Finn and went 
their way ; and nothing is told of what befell them till 
they reached Tara. It chanced that the king was at 
this time holding a meeting ; and the chiefs and great 
nobles of Tara were assembled round him. And when 
the two warriors arrived, they were welcomed, and 
the meeting was put off for that day ; for the king 
felt sure that it was on some business of weight they 
had come. 

After they had eaten and drunk, the king, sending 


away all others from his presence, bade the two chiefs 
tell their errand. So Oisin told him they had corne 
to seek his daughter Grania in marriage for Finn the 
son of Cumal. 

Then the king said, " In all Erin there is scarce a 
young prince or noble who has not sought my daughter 
in marriage ; and she has refused them all. And it is 
on me that the ill feeling and reproach caused by her 
refusals have fallen; for she has ever made me the 
bearer of her answers. Wherefore now you shall 
come to my daughter's presence, and I will not men- 
tion the matter to her till she give you an answer 
from her own lips: so shall I be blameless if she refuse.' 

So they went to the apartments of the women, at 
the sunny side of the palace. And when they had 
entered the princess's chamber, the king sat with her 
on the couch and said 

" Here, my daughter, are two of the people of Finn 
the son of Cumal, who have come to ask thee as a wife 
for him." 

And Grania, giving, indeed, not much thought to 
the matter, answered, "I know not whether he is 
worthy to be thy son-in-law; but if he be, why should 
he not be a fitting husband for me ? " 

The two messengers were satisfied with this answer, 
and retired. And Cormac made a feast for them ; and 
they ate and drank and made merry with the chiefs 
and nobles of the palace ; after which the king bade 
them tell Finn to come at the end of a fortnight to 
claim his bride. 


So the two heroes returned to Allen,- and told how 
they had fared in their quest. And as all things come 
at last to an end, so this fortnight wore slowly away ; 
and at the end of the time, Finn, having collected 
round him the chief men of the seven standing 
battalions of the Fena to be his guard, marched to 
Tara. The king received him with great honour, 
and welcomed the Fena, and they were feasted with 
the nobles of Erin in the great banquet hall of 
Micorta.* And the king sat on his throne to enjoy 
the feast with his guests, having Finn on his right 
hand, and on his left the queen, Etta, the daughter 
of Atan of Corca; and Grania sat next the queen, 
her mother, on the left. And all the others sat 
according to their rank and patrimony. 



Now while the feast went on, it chanced that Dara of 
the Poems, one of Finn's druids, sat near Grania. And 
he recited for her many lays about the deeds of her 
forefathers; after which a pleasant conversation arose 
between them. And when they had talked for some 
time, she asked him 

* See foofc-note, page 55. 


" What means all this feasting ? And why has 
Finn come with his people on this visit to my father 
the king ? " 

Dara was surprised at this question, and answered, 
" If thou dost not know, it is hard for me to know." 

And Grania answered, " I wish, indeed, to learn 
from you what has brought Finn to Tara." 

" It is strange to hear thee ask this question," said 
the druid. " Knowest thou not that he has come to 
cl aim thee for his wife ? " 

Grania was silent for a long time after hearing 
this. And again she spoke 

" If, indeed, Finn had sought me for his son Oisin, 
or for the youthful Oscar, there would be nothing to 
wonder at ; but 1 marvel much that he seeks me for 
himself, seeing that he is older than my father." 

Then Grania meditated in silence ; and after a time 
she said to the druid 

" This is a goodly company, but I know not one 
among them, except only Oisin, the son of Finn. Tell 
me now who is that warrior on the right of Oisin." 

" That knightly warrior," answered the druid, " is 
Gaul Mac Morna the Terrible in Battle." 

"Who is the youthful champion to the right of 
Gaul ? " asked Grania. 

" That is Oscar, the son of Oisin," said the druid. 

" Who is the graceful and active-looking chief sit- 
ting next Oscar ? " asked the princess. 

" That is Kylta Mac Ronan the Swift-footed," said 
the druid. 


" Next to Kylta Mac Ronan sits a champion with 
fair, freckled skin, raven-black curls, a gentle, handsome, 
manly countenance, and soft voice : pray who is he ? " 

" That is Dermat O'Dyna of the Bright Face, the 
favourite of maidens, and beloved of all the Fena for 
his high-mindedness, his bravery, and his generous 

" Who is he sitting at Dermat's shoulder ? " asked 

"That is Bering, the son of Dobar O'Baskin," 
replied the druid ; " a valiant champion, and also a 
druid and a man of science." 

Then Grania called her handmaid, and said to her, 
"Bring me the large jewelled, gold-chased drinking- 
horn that lies in my chamber." 

The handmaid brought the drinking-horn; and 
Grania, having filled it to the brim, said 

" Take it now to Finn from me, and tell him that I 
desire him to drink from it." 

The handmaiden did so, and Finn took a full 
draught. He passed the drinking-horn to the king, 
and the king drank ; and after him the queen. Then 
again Grania bade the handmaid bring it to Carbri of 
the Liffey, the king's son ; and she ceased not till all 
she wished to drink had drunk from the gold-chased 
horn. And after a little time, those who had drunk 
fell into a deep sleep, like the sleep of death. 

Then the princess rose from her seat, and, walking 
softly across the hall, sat down near Dermat O'Dyna ; 
and with downcast eyes and low voice, she said 


" Wilt them, Dermat, return my love if I give it 
to thee ? " 

Dermat heard her at first with amazement and 
alarm. Then for a moment, even before he was aware, 
his heart leaped with joy; but when he bethought him 
of his duty to his chief, he hardened his mind, and 
answered with cold looks and words 

" The maiden who is betrothed to Finn, I will not 
love ; and even if I were so minded, I dare not." 

And with eyes still cast down, Grania said, " I 
know well it is thy duty, and not thy heart, that 
prompts thee to speak so. Thou seest how it is with 
me ; and I am forced to speak more boldly than a 
maiden should. Finn has come to ask me for his 
wife ; but he is an old man, even older than my father, 
and I love him not. But I love thee, Dermat, and I 
beseech thee to save me from this hateful marriage. 
And, lest thou think that my love for thee is only a 
passing fancy, hear now what befell. 

" Of a day when a hurling match was played on the 
green of Tara, between Mac Luga and the Fena on the 
one side, and Carbri of the Lifiey and the men of Tara 
on the other, I sat high up at the window of my sunny 
chamber to see the game. Thou didst remain sitting 
with some others that day, not meaning to take part 
in the play. But at last, when the game began to go 
against thy friends, I saw thee start up ; and, snatching 
the hurlet from the man nearest to thee, thou didst 
rush into the thick of the crowd ; and before sitting 
down thou didst win the goal three times on the men 


of Tara. At that hour my eyes and my heart were 
turned to thee ; and well I knew thee to-day in this 
banquet hall, though I knew not thy name till the 
druid told me. At that same hour, too, I gave thee 
my love what I never gave, and never will give, to 
any other." 

Then was Dermat sore troubled. He strove with 
himself, but strove in vain ; for he could not help 
loving the princess with his whole heart. Yet none 
the less did he hide his thoughts ; for his duty to his 
chief prevailed. And with looks and words cold and 
stern, he replied 

" I marvel greatly that thou hast not given thy love 
to Finn, who deserves it much better than any other 
man alive. And still more do I marvel that thou hast 
lighted on me beyond all the princes and nobles of 
Tara; for truly there is not one among them less worthy 
of thy love than I. But that thou shouldst be my 
wife, by no means can this be : for even were I to 
consent, there is not in Erin a fastness or a wilderness, 
however strong or remote, that could shelter us from 
Finn's vengeance." 

Then Grania said, "I read thy thoughts; and 
I know thou art striving against what thy heart 
prompts. And now, Dermat, I place thee under 
gesa, 12 and under the bonds of heavy druidical spells 
bonds that true heroes never break through, that 
thou take me for thy wife before Finn and the others 
awaken from their sleep; and save me from this 
hateful marriage." 


And Dermat, still unyielding, replied, " Evil are 
those gesa thou hast put on me ; and evil, I fear, will 
come of them. But dost thou not know, princess, that 
whenever Finn sleeps at Tara, it is one of his privileges 
to have in his own keeping the keys of the great gates ; 
so that even if we so willed it, we should not be able 
to leave the fortress ? " 

" There is a wicket gate leading out from my apart- 
ments," said Grania, " and through that we shall pass 

" That I cannot do," answered Dermat ; " for it is 
one of my gesa 12 never to enter a king's mansion, or 
leave it, by a wicket gate." 

And Grania answered, " I have heard it said that 
every true champion, who has been instructed in all 
the feats that a warrior should learn, can bound over 
the highest rampart -of a fort by means of the 
handles of his spears ; and well I know that thou art 
the most accomplished champion among the Fena. I 
will now pass out through the wicket gate ; and even if 
thou dost not follow, I will fly alone from Tara." 

And so she went forth from the banquet hall. 

Then Dermat, much doubting how to act, spoke to 
his friends and asked counsel of them. And first he 
addressed Oisin, the son of Finn, and asked him how he 
should deal with the heavy gesa-bonds that had been 
laid on him by the princess ; and what he should do 
in the case. 

" You are blameless in regard to these bonds," 
answered Oisin; "and I counsel you to follow Grania; 
but guard yourself well against the wiles of Finn." 


" dear friend Oscar/' spoke Dermat again, " what 
think you is best for me to do, seeing that these heavy 
gesa- bonds have been put on me ?" 

" I say you should follow Grania," answered Oscar ; 
" for he, indeed, is but a pitiful champion who fears to 
keep his bonds." 

" What counsel do you give me, Kylta ? " said 
Dermat to Kylta Mac E-onan. 

" I say," answered Kylta, " that I would gladly give 
the world's wealth that the princess had given me her 
love ; and I counsel you to follow her." 

Last of all, Dermat spoke to Dering, the son of 
Dobar O'Baskin, and said, " Give me your judgment in 
this hard matter, friend Dering." 

And Dering answered, " If you espouse Grania, I 
foresee that your death will come of it, which grieves 
me even to think of; but even so, I counsel you to 
follow the princess rather than break through your 

And Dei-mat, doubting even still, asked for the last 
time, " Is this, my friends, the counsel you all give ? '' 

And they all answered, " Yes," as with the voice of 
one man. 

Then Dermat arose and put on his armour and his 
helmet ; and he took his shield, and his two heavy 
spears, and his sword. And with tears he bade farewell 
to his dear companions'; for well he knew that it would 
be long before they should meet again ; and he foresaw 
trouble and danger. 

Then he went forth to where the steep side of the 


inner mound overlooked the outer rampart ; and, 
placing his two spears point downwards, and leaning 
on them after the manner of skilful champions, with 
two light, airy bounds he cleared rampart and ditch, 
and measured the length of his two feet on the leve\ 
green outside. And there the princess met him ; and 
he said to her, with voice and manner still distant and 

"Evil will certainly come of this espousal, prin- 
cess, both to thee and to me. Far better would it be 
for thee to choose Finn and to pass me by ; for now 
we shall wander without home or rest, fleeing from 
his wrath. Return, then, princess, return even now 
through the wicket gate, for the sleepers have not yet 
awakened; and Finn shall never learn what has 

But Grania, gentle and sad indeed, but quite 
unmoved, replied, " I will never return ; and until death 
takes me I will not part from thee." 

Then at last Dermat yielded and strove no longer ; 
and putting off his sternness of manner and voice, he 
spoke gently to the princess and said 

"I will hide my thoughts from thee no more, 
Grania. I will be thy husband, all unworthy of thee 
as I am ; and I will guard thee and defend thee to the 
death from Finn and his hirelings." 

And they plighted their faith, and vowed solemn 
vows to be faithiul to each other as man and wife for 




THEN Grania showed Dermat the fenced meadow 
where her father's horses grazed, and bade him yoke 
two horses to a chariot. And when he had done so, 
he and Grania sat in the chariot and travelled with 
all speed westward, till they reached Ath-Luan.* 

And when they had come to the ford, Dermat said, 
" Finn will doubtless pursue us, and it will be all the 
easier for him to follow our track, that we have the 

And Grania answered, " As we are now so far from 
Tara, we may leave the chariot and horses here, and 
I will fare on foot henceforward." 

So they alighted from the chariot; and Dermat, 
leading one of the horses across, left them both some 
distance above the ford, one at each side of the river. 
And he took up Grania in his strong arms, and 
brought her tenderly across the ford, so that not even 
the sole of her foot, or the skirt of her mantle was 
wetted. Then they walked against the stream for 
a mile, and turned south-west, till they reached the 
Wood of the two Tents, f 

* Ath-Lnan, now Athlone, on the Shannon. In ancient times the 
river had to be crossed by a ford, where the bridge is now built. 

t The Wood of the two Tents was situated in the territory of 
Clanrickard, in the county Galway. 


In the midst of the wood, where it was thickest, 
Dermat lopped off branches and wove a hut, where 
they rested. And he brought Grania the wild animals 
of the wood to eat, and gave her the water of a clear 
spring to drink 

As to Finn, the son of Cumal, I will now tell what 
befell him. When the king and his guests arose from 
their sleep at early dawn next morning, they found 
Dermat and Grania gone; and a burning jealousy seized 
on Finn, and his rage was so great that for a time 
all his strength left him. Then he sent for his track- 
ing-men, namely, the Clann Navin ; and he commanded 
them forthwith to follow the track of Dermat and 
Grania. This they did with much ease as far as Ath- 
Luan, while Finn and the others followed after ; but 
when they had come to the ford, they lost the track. 
Whereupon Finn, being now indeed easily kindled to 
wrath, told them that unless they took up the track 
again speedily, he would hang every man of the Clann 
Navin on the edge of the ford. 

So the trackers, being sore afraid, searched upwards 
against the stream, and found the two horses where 
they had been left, one on each side of the river. And 
going on a mile further, they came to the spot where 
Dermat and Grania had turned from the river; and 
there they lighted on the south-west track, Finn and 
the Fena still following. And when the Clann Navin 
had pointed out to Finn the direction of the track, he 

" Well do I know now where we shall find Dermat 


and Grama ; for of a certainty they have hidden them- 
selves in the Wood of the two Tents." 

Now it chanced that Oisin, and Oscar, and Kylta, 
and Dering were present when Finn spoke these 
words ; and they were troubled, for they loved Dermat. 
And going aside, they held council among themselves, 
and Oisin spoke 

"There is much likelihood, friends, that Finn 
speaks truth; for he is far-seeing, and judges not 
hastily. It is needful, therefore, that we send Dermat 
warning, lest he be taken unawares. My counsel is 
that you, Oscar, find out Finn's hound, Bran, and tell 
him to go to the Wood of the two Tents with a 
warning to Dermat ; for Bran does not love his own 
master Finn better than he loves Dermat." 

So Oscar called Bran secretly, and told him what 
he should do. Bran listened with sagacious eye and 
ears erect, and understood Oscar's words quite well. 
Then, running back to the rear of the host, so that 
Finn might not see him, he followed the track with- 
out once losing it, till he arrived at the Wood of the 
two Tents. There he found Dermat and Grania 
asleep in their hut, and he put his head into Dermat 's 

Dermat started up from his sleep, and seeing Bran, 
he awakened Grania, and said 

" Here is Bran, Finn's hound ; he has come to warn 
me that Finn himself is near." 

And Grania trembled and said, " Let us take the 
warning, then, and fly ! " 


But Dermat answered, " I will not leave this hut ; 
for however long we fly, we cannot escape from Finn ; 
and it is not worse to fall into his hands now than at 
any other time. Howbeit, they shall not come into 
this fastness unless I permit them." 

Then great fear fell on Grania ; but, seeing Dermat 
gloomy and downcast, she urged the point no further. 

Again Oisin spoke to his three companions and 
said, " I fear me that Bran may not have been able to 
baffle Finn, or that some other mischance may have 
hindered him from finding Dermat ; so we must needs 
send him another warning. Bring hither, therefore, 
Fergor, Kylta's errand-man." 

And Kylta brought forward Fergor. 

Now this Fergor had a voice so loud that his shout 
was heard over the three nearest cantreds. 

So they caused him to give three shouts that 
Dermat might hear. And Dermat heard Fergor's 
shouts, and, awakening Grania from her sleep, said to 

" I hear the shout of Fergor, Kylta's errand-man. 
And he is with Kylta, and Kylta is with Finn ; and I 
know that my friends have sent me this warning, as a 
sign that Finn himself is coming." 

And again Grania trembled and said, " Let us take 
this warning and fly ! " 

But Dermat answered, "I will not fly; and we 
shall not leave this wood till Finn and the Fen a over- 
take us. Howbeit, none shall come into this fastness 
unless I permit them." 


And Grania was in great fear; but this time 
Dermat looked gloomy and stern, and she pressed the 
matter no further. 



Now as to Finn. He and the others went forward 
till they reached the Wood of the two Tents. And he 
sent forward the Clann Navin to make search ; who 
went, and having made their way to the thickest 
part of the wood, they came to a fence which they 
could not cross. 

For Dermat had cleared a space round his hut, and 
surrounded it with a fence that no man could pierce, 
with seven narrow doors of strong poles woven with 
saplings, to face seven different parts of the wood. 

Then the Clann Navin climbed up to a high tree 
branch, and looked over the fence ; and they saw 
Dermat with a lady. And when they had returned, 
Finn asked them if Dermat and Grania were in the 
wood. And they answered 

" Dermat, indeed, is there, and we saw a lady with 
him; but whether she be Grania or not we cannot 
tell, for we know not the princess." 

" May ill luck attend Dermat, and all his friends for 
his sake ! " said Finn. " I know he is in this wood ; 
and he shall never leave it till he give me quittance 
for the injury he has done me." 



And Oisin said, " Certain it is, that you, Finn, are 
blinded by jealousy ; else you would never think that 
Dermat would await you on this plain, with no 
stronger fastness to shelter him from your wrath than 
the Wood of the two Tents." 

To which Finn, being angry, replied, "Your words 
will profit you nothing, Oisin ; neither will your 
friendship for Dermat avail him aught. Well I knew, 
indeed, when I heard Fergor's three shouts, that it 
was ye who caused him to shout, as a warning signal 
to Dermat; and I know also that ye sent my dog 
Bran to him with another warning. But these warn- 
ings will not avail you ; for he shall never leave this 
wood till he pay me such eric 10 as I seek for the 
injury he has done me." 

Then Oscar spoke and said, "Surely, Finn, it is 
mere folly to believe that Dermat would wait here for 
you, knowing, as he does, that you seek his head." 

As Oscar spoke these words, they arrived at the 
fence; and Finn answered, "Who then, think you, 
has cleared the wood in this manner, and fenced the 
space with this strong, sheltering enclosure, and fitted 
it with these narrow doors ? But indeed," added he, 
" I will find out the truth of the matter in another 
way." So, raising his voice a little, he called out, 
"Tell us now, Dermat, which of us is telling truth, 
Oscar or I." 

And Dermat, who would not hide when called on, 
answered from within, "You never erred in your 
judgment, O king : Grama and I are here ; but none 
shall come in unless I permit them." 


Then Finn placed his men around the enclosure, a 
company at each narrow door ; and he said to each 
company, "If Dermat tries to escape by this door, 
seize him and keep him securely for me." 

Now when Grania saw these preparations, and 
overheard Finn's words, she was overcome with fear, 
and wept and trembled very much. And Dermat had 
pity on his wife, and comforted her ; and he kissed her 
three times, bidding her be of good cheer, for that all 
would be well with them yet. 

And when Finn saw this for he stood with some 
others viewing the hut from a mound at a little 
way off a flame of burning jealousy went through 
his heart ; and he said 

"Now of a certainty Dermat shall not escape 
from me; and I shall have his head for all these 

Now Angus of Bruga, 1 the wisest and most skilled 
in magic arts of all the Dedannan race, was Dermat's 
foster father. For he had reared him from childhood, 
and had taught him all the arts and accomplishments 
of a champion; and he loved him even as a father 
loves his only son. 

And it was revealed to Angus that Dermat was in 
deadly strait. So he arose and travelled on the wings 
of the cool, east wind, neither did he halt till he 
reached the Wood of the two Tents; and he passed 
into the hut without being perceived by Finn and his 
men. And when Dermat saw the old man his heart 
leaped with joy. 


Angus greeted Dermat and Grania, and said, 
" What is this thing thou hast done, my son ? " 

And Dermat answered, " The princess Grania, 
daughter of the king of Tara, asked me to take her 
for my wife, putting heavy gesa-bonds on me ; and I 
did so, and we fled from her father's house. And 
Finn, the son of Cumal, has pursued us with intent to 
kill me, for he sought the princess to wife for himself." 

And Angus said, " Come now, children, under my 
mantle, one under each border, and I will bring you 
both away from this place without the knowledge of 

But Derrnat answered, " Take Grania ; but for me, 
I will not go with you. However, I will leave this 
place; and if I am alive I will follow you. But if 
they slay me, send the princess to her father, and tell 
him to treat her neither better nor worse on account 
of taking me for her husband." 

Then Dermat kissed Grania, and bade her be of 
good cheer, for that he feared not his foes. And 
Angus placed her under his mantle, and, telling Dermat 
whither to follow, went forth from the enclosure with- 
out the knowledge of Finn and the Fena. They 
turned south then, and -nothing is told of what befell 
them till they came to the Wood of the two Sallows, 
which is now called Limerick. 

Now as to Dermat After Angus and Grania had 
left him, he girded on his armour, and took his sharp 
weapons in his hands ; and he stood up tall and 
straight like a pillar, meditating in silence for a space. 


Then he went to one of the seven narrow doors, and 
asked who was outside. 

" No enemy of thine is here, but Oisin and Oscar, 
with the men of the Claim Baskin. Come out to us, 
and no one will dare to harm thee." 

" I must needs find the door where Finn himself 
keeps guard," answered Dermat ; " so I will not go out 
to you." 

He went to the second narrow door, and asked who 
was there. 

" Kylta Mac Ronan with the Clann Ronan around 
him. Come out at this door, and we will fight to the 
death for thy sake." 

" I will not go out to you," answered Dermat ; " for 
I io not wish to bring Finn's anger on you for treating 
me with kindness." 

He went to another narrow door, and asked who 
was there. 

" Conan of the Grey Rushes and the Clann Morna. 
We are no friends to Finn ; but thee we all love. 
Come out to us, then, and no one will dare to harm 

"Of a certainty I will not go out at this door," 
answered Dermat ; " for well I know that Finn would 
rather see you all dead than that I should escape ! " 

He went to another narrow door, and asked who 
was there. 

" A friend and a dear comrade of thine is here ; 
Cuan, the chief of the Munster Fena, and his Munster 
men with him. Thou and we come from the same 


territory ; and if need be we will give our lives in 
fight for thy sake." 

" 1 will not go out to you," said Dermat ; " for it 
would bring Finn's sure displeasure on you to act 
kindly towards me." 

He went to another narrow door, and asked who 
was there. 

" Finn, the son of Glore of the Loud Voice, chief ol 
the Fena of Ulster, and the Ulster men around him. 
Thou and we come not from the same territory ; but 
we all love thee, Dermat ; and now come forth to us, 
and who will dare to wound or harm thee ? " 

" I will not go out to you," replied Dermat ; " you 
are a faithful friend of mine, and your father in like 
manner ; and I do not wish you to earn the enmity of 
Finn on my account." 

He went to another narrow door, and asked who 
was there. 

" No friend of thine ! Here stand the Clann Navin 
watching for thee; namely, Aed the Lesser, and Aed 
the Tall, and Gonna the Wounder, and Gothan the 
Loud-voiced, and Cuan the Tracker, with all their men. 
We bear thee no love ; and if thou come out at this 
door, we shall make thee a mark for our swords 
and spears ! " 

And Dermat answered, "Lying and mean-faced 
dogs ! It is not fear of you that keeps me from going 
forth at this door ; but I do not wish to defile my 
spear with the blood of your shoeless, tracking vaga- 


And he went to another narrow door, and asked 
who was there. 

" Finn, the son of Cumal, the son of Art, the son of 
Trenmore O'Baskin, and with him the Leinster Fena. 
No love awaits thee here ; and if thou come forth we 
will, cleave thee, flesh and bones ! " 

" The door I have sought I have found at last ! " 
cried Dermat ; " for the door where thou, Finn, 
standest, that, of a certainty, is the very door by 
which I shall pass out ! " 

Then Finn charged his men, under pain of death, 
not to let Dermat pass. But Dermat, watching an 
unguarded place, rose by means of his two spears 
with a light, airy bound over the fence, and alighted 
on the clear space outside; and running swiftly for- 
ward, was in a moment beyond the reach of sword and 
spear. And so dismayed were they by his threaten- 
ing look, that not a man attempted to follow him. 

Then, turning southward, he never halted till he 
came to the Wood of the two Sallows, where he found 
Angus and Grania in a warm hut, with a boar fixed on 
hazel spits roasting before a great flaming fire. Der- 
mat greeted them ; and the spark of life all but leaped 
from Grania's heart with joy when she saw him.* So 
he told them all that had befallen him ; and they ate 
their meal and slept in peace that night, till the morn- 
ing of next day filled the world with light. 

Then Angus arose with the dawn, and said to 

* Original : " It was little but that the salmon of her life fled 
through her mouth with joy before Dermat." 


Dermat, " I will now depart, my son ; but Finn will 
still pursue you, and I leave you this counsel to 
guide you when I am gone. Go not into a tree having 
only one trunk ; never enter a cave that has only one 
opening ; never land on an island of the sea that has 
only one channel of approach ; where you cook your 
food, there eat it not ; where you eat, sleep not there ; 
and where you sleep to-night, sleep not there to- 
morrow night ! " 

So Angus bade them farewell ; and they were sad 
after him. 



AFTER Angus was gone, Dermat and Grania journeyed 
westward, keeping the Shannon on their right, till they 
reached the Rough Stream of the Champions, which 
is now called the Laune.* They rested there; and 
Dermat killed a salmon with his spear, and fixed it on 
a hazel spit to broil on the near bank ; and he crossed 
the river with Grania, to eat it on the further bank, as 
Angus had told him. And after they had eaten, they 
sought a sleeping-place further west. 

They rose early next morning, and journeyed still 

The river Laune, flowing from the Lakes of Killarney into 
Dingle Bay. 


west, till they reached the Grey Moor of Finnlia.* 
There they met a man of great size, noble in gait and 
feature, but with arms and armour not befitting his 
appearance. Dermat greeted him, and asked who he 
was ; and he replied 

"My name is Modan, and I am seeking a lord 
whom I may serve for pay." 

" If I take you into my service," asked Dermat, 
" what can you do for us ? " 

" I will serve you by day and watch for you by 
night," answered Modan. 

Whereupon they entered into bonds of agreement 
with one another, Modan to serve by day and watch 
by night, and Dermat to pay him wages. 

Then the three went westward till they reached 
the river of Carra,t and Modan lifted Dermat and 
Grania with the greatest ease, and bore them dry 
across the stream. From that further west to Beha,] 
and Modan bore them over this stream in like manner 
Here they found a cave, on the side of the hill over 
that part of the sea called Tonn Toma, namely, the 

* The Grey Moor of Finnlia (Bogach-FhinnUithe in the original) 
was somewhere between the river Laune and the river Caragh, but the 
name is now forgotten. 

f The river of Carra, the Caragh river, flowing into Dingle Bay 
from the beautiful lake Caragh, twenty miles west of Killarney 

J Beha, the river Behy, about a mile and a half west from the 
Caragh, flowing through Glanbehy into Rossbehy creek. 

Tonn Toma, the wave of Toma (a woman) . The word Tonn (a 
wave or billow) was often applied to the sea-waves that break over 
certain sandbanks and rocks with an exceptionally loud roaring. 
Tonn Toma is the name of a sandbank at the head of Dingle Bay, 
just outside the extreme point of Rossbehy peninsula; and in the 


hill of Curra-Kenn-Ammid ; and Modan prepared a 
couch of soft rushes and birch tops in the innermost 
part of the cave, for Dermat and Grania. After this 
he went to the nearest wood and cut him a long, 
straight quicken tree rod ; and, having put a hair and 
a hook on the rod, and a holly berry on the hook, he 
stood on the brink of the stream, and with three casts 
he hooked three salmon. Then he put the rod by for 
next day ; and, putting the hook and the hair under 
his girdle, he returned to Dermat and Grania. And 
he broiled the fish, and they ate their meal, Modan 
giving the largest salmon to Dermat, the second in 
size to Grania, and keeping the smallest for himself. 
After which Dermat and Grania went to sleep in the 
cave, and Modan kept watch and ward at the mouth, 
till morning arose with its abundant light. 

Dermat rose early and set out for the nearest high 
hill, to look round the country, telling Grania to keep 
watch at the mouth of the cave while Modan slept. 
Having come to.the top of the hill, he viewed the coun- 
try all round to the four points of the sky ; and after a 

winter storms, the sea thunders on this sandbank, and indeed on the 
whole length of the beach of the peninsula, so as often to be heard 
twenty miles inland. This roaring is popularly believed to predict rain. 

There is a chain of three "hills, Stookaniller, Knockatinna, and 
Knockboy, lying between Behy bridge on the east and Drang moun- 
tain on the west, and isolated from the hills to the south-east by the 
valley of Glanbehy. These hills rise directly over Tonn Toma ; and 
the old Gaelic name, Currach-Cinn-Adhnmid (the moor of the head [or 
hill] of timber) must have been anciently applied to one or all of them. 

(See, for an account of the great historical towns of Ireland, the 
author's " Origin and History of Irish Names of Places," series ii. 
page 251.) 


little while, ne saw a fleet ot black ships approaching 
from the west. When they had come near enough to 
the snore, a company of nine nines landed at the very 
loot ol the hill where Dermat stood, fle went to 
them, and, after greeting them, asked who they were, 
and from what country they had come. 

" We are three sea-championa from the Iccian Sea,* 
who are at the head ot this troop," replied they, " and 
our names are Ducoss, Fincoss, and Trencoss;f and we 
have come hither at the suit of Finn the son of Cumal. 
For a certain chief named Dermat O'Dyna has rebelled 
against him, and is now an outlaw, flying through the 
country from one fastness to another. And Finn has 
asked us to come with our fleet to watch, the coast, 
while he himself watches inland, so that this marauder 
may no longer escape punishment. We hear, moreover, 
that this Dermat is valiant and dangerous to attack, 
and we have brought hither three venomous hounds to 
loose them on his track, and scent him to his hiding- 
place: fire cannot burn them, water cannot drown 
thenj, and weapons cannot wound them. And now 
tell us who thou art, and whether thou hast heard anj 
tidings of this Dermat O'Dyna." 

" I saw him, indeed, yesterday," answered Dermat. 
" I know him well too, and I counsel you to follow 
your quest warily; for if you meet with Dermat O'Dyna 
you will have no common man to deal with." 

* Iccian Sea (Irish, Muir nlcht), the Irish name for the sea 
between England and France. 

f Ducoss, Fincoss, and Trencoss, %.e. Blackfoot, Whitefoot, and 


Then he asked if they had got any wine in their 
ships. They replied that they had ; so he asked that 
a tun might be brought, as he wished to drink ; and he 
told them he would show them a champion-feat after 
he had drunk. Two men were accordingly sent on 
board for a tun of wine. When they had brought it, 
Dermat raised it in his arms and drank ; and the 
others drank in like manner till the tun was empty. 

Then he said, " I will now show you a champion- 
feat that Dermat O'Dyna taught me ; and I challenge 
any man among you to do it after me. And from this 
you may learn what manner of man you will have to 
deal with, should you have the ill luck to meet with 
Dermat himself." 

So saying, he brought the tun to the crest of the 
hill, and set it down at the edge of a steep cliff". Then, 
leaping up on it, he turned it cunningly aside from 
the cliff, and let it roll down the smooth slope of the 
hill till it reached the very bottom, while he himself 
remained standing on it the whole time. And three 
times did he do this while the strangers looked on. 

But they laughed, mocking him, and said, " Do 
you call that a champion-feat indeed ? Truly, you 
have never in your life seen a good champion-feat ! " 

Thereupon one among them started up and brought 
the tun to the top of the hill, intending to do the same 
feat ; and, placing it on the edge of the cliff, he leaped 
up on it. And while he stood on it, Dermat pushed it 
with his foot to set it going. But the moment it 
moved, the man lost his balance, and while the tun 


went rolling down the face of the hill, he himself fell 
over the cliff, and was dashed to pieces on the sharp 
edges and points of the rocks. 

Another man tried the same thing, and he in like 
manner fell down and was killed among the rocks. 
And the end of the matter was, that before they would 
acknowledge themselves beaten, fifty of their men 
attempted the feat, and every man of the fifty fell over 
the cliff and was killed. So the others went on board 
their ships, gloomy and heart-sore. 

Dermat returned to the cave, and Grania's heart 
was glad when she saw him. Modan went then, and 
putting the hair and the hook on the rod as before, he 
hooked three salmon; and he went back to the cave and 
broiled them on hazel spits. And they ate their meal; 
and Modan kept watch and ward, while Dermat and 
Grania slept in the cave, till the pleasant morning 
filled the world with light. 

Dermat rose up with the dawn, and telling Grania 
to keep watch while Modan slept, he went to the same 
hill, and found the three sea-champions with their 
men on the shore before him. He greeted them, and 
asked whether they wished for any more champion- 
feata But they answered that they would much 
rather he would give them some tidings of Dermat 
O'Dyna. Whereupon he said 

" I have seen a man who saw him this very morn- 
ing. And now I will show you a champion-feat he 
taught me, in order that you may know what is before 
you, should you meet with Dermat O'Dyna himself." 


When he had said this, he threw off helmet and 
tunic and armour, till only his shirt remained over his 
brawny shoulders ; and, taking the Ga-boi,* the spear 
of Mannanan Mac Lir, he fixed it firmly in the earth, 
standing point upwards. Then, walking back some 
little way, he ran towards the spear, and, rising from 
the earth with a bird- like bound, he alighted softly on 
the very point ; and, again leaping off it, he came to the 
ground on his feet without wound or hurt of any kind. 

Then arose one of the strange warriors and said, 
" If you call that a champion-feat, it is plain that you 
have never seen a good champion-feat in your life ! " 

And so saying, he ran swiftly towards the spear 
and made a great bound ; but he fell heavily on the 
sharp point, so that it pierced him through the heart, 
and he was taken down dead. Another man attempted 
the feat, and was killed in like manner; and before 
they ceased, fifty of their men were slain by Dermat's 
spear. Then they bade him draw his spear from the 
earth, saying that no more should try that feat ; and 
they went on board their ships. 

So Dermat returned to the cave; and Modan 
hooked three salmon; and Dermat and Grania ate 
their meai and slept till morning, Modan keeping watch. 

* Dermat had two spears, the great one called the Ga-derg or 
Crann-derg (red javelin), and the small one called Ga-boi or Crann- 
boi (yellow javelin) : he had also two swords : the Morallta (great 
fary), and the Begallta (little fury). These spears and swords he 
got from Mannanan Mac Lir and from Angus of the Bruga. He 
carried the great spear and sword in affaire of life and death ; and 
the smaller in adventures of less danger. 


Next morning, Dermat went to the hill, bringing 
two strong forked poles cut from the wood. He found 
the three sea-champions with their men on the shore ; 
and he greeted them, and said 

" I have come to-day to show you a champion-feat I 
learned from Dermat O'Dyna, that you may know what 
to expect if you should meet with Dermat himself." 

He then fixed the poles standing firmly in the 
earth ; and he placed the Morallta, that is, the long 
sword of Angus of the Bruga, in the forks, edge up- 
wards, the hilt on one, and the point on the other, 
binding it firmly with withes. Then, rising up with a 
bound, he alighted gently on the edge ; and he walked 
cunningly three times from hilt to point, and from 
point to hilt, and then leaped lightly to the earth 
without wound or hurt. And he challenged the 
strangers to do that feat. 

Then one arose and said, " There never yet was 
done a champion-feat by a man of Erin, that one 
among us will not do likewise." 

And he leaped up, intending to alight on his feet ; 
but he came down heavily on the sharp edge, so that 
the sword cut him clean in two. Another tried the 
same, and was killed also ; and, they ceased not till as 
many were killed that day by Dermat's sword as were 
killed on each of the two days before. 

When they were about to return to their ships, 
they asked him had he got any tidings of Dermat 
O'Dyna ; and he answered 

" I have seen him this day : I will now go to seek 


him, and methinks I shall bring him to you in the 

Then he returned to the cave ; and he and Grania 
ate their meal, and slept that night, while Modan kept 

Next Corning, Dermat arose with the dawn, and 
this time he arrayed himself for battle. He put on 
his heavy armour no man who wore it could be 
wounded through it, or above it, or beneath it. He 
hung the Morallta at his left hip, the sword of Angus 
of the Bruga, which never left anything for a second 
blow; and he took his two thick-handled spears, the 
Ga-derg and the Ga-boi, whose wounds no one ever 

Then he awakened Grania, telling her to keep 
watch till he returned, that Modan might sleep. And 
when she saw him so arrayed, she trembled with fear, 
for she well knew that this was his manner of pre- 
paring for battle. And she asked him what he meant 
to do to-day, and whether Finn's pursuers had found 
them. But he, to quiet her fears, put off the matter 
lightly, and said, " It is better to be prepared, lest the 
enemy come in my way ; " and this soothed her. 

So he went to the hill, and met the strangers on 
the shore as before. And they asked him had he any 
tidings to give them of Dermat O'Dyna. 

He answered, " He is not very far off, for I have 
seen him just now." 

" Then," said they, " lead us to his hiding-place, that 
we may bring his head to Finn the son of Cumal." 


" That would, indeed, be an ill way of repaying 
friendship," answered he. "Dermat O'Dyna is my 
friend ; and he is now under the protection of my 
valour: so of this be sure, I will do him no 

And they replied wrathfully, " If thou art a friend 
to Dermat O'Dyna, thou art a foe to Finn ; and now 
we will take thy head and bring it to him along with 
the head of Dermat." 

"You might indeed do that with much ease," 
answered Dermat, " if I were bound hand and foot ; 
but being as I am, free, I shall defend myself after my 
usual custom." 

Then he drew the Morallta from its sheath, and, 
springing forward to meet them as they closed on him, 
he clove the body of the foremost in two with one 
blow. Then he rushed through them and under them 
and over them, like a wolf among sheep, or a hawk 
among sparrows, cleaving and slaughtering them, till 
only a few were left, who hardly escaped to their ships. 



AFTER this Dermat returned to the cave without 
wound or hurt ; and he and Grania ate and slept, and 
Modan watched till morning. Then he repaired to the 


hill, fully armed as before, and striding right over the 
ships, he struck his hollow-sounding shield* with his 
spear for a challenge, till the whole shore and the sur- 
rounding hills re-echoed. And Ducoss straightway 
armed himself and came ashore to fight Dermat single 

Now Dermat by no means wished to slay his foe 
immediately, being, indeed, intent on worse punishment. 
So he closed with Ducoss ; and the two champions, 
throwing aside their weapons, seized each other round 
the waists with their sinewy arms. Then they twisted 
and tugged and wrestled in deadly silence ; and their 
swollen sinews strained and crackled; and the earth 
trembled beneath their feet ; like two great writhing 
serpents, or like two raging lions, or like two savage 
bulls that strive and struggle to heave each other with 
horns interlocked. Thus did the heroes contend ; till 
at last Dermat, heaving Ducoss on his shoulder, dashed 
him helpless and groaning to the ground ; and instantly 
seizing him, he bound him in hard iron bonds. 

Fincoss came next against Dermat, and after him 
Trencoss ; but he overcame them both, and bound them 
with like bonds ; and then, leaving the three writhing 
with pain, he said to them 

" I would strike oft your heads, but that I wish to 

* A usual form of challenge among the ancient Irish warriors. It 
is very curious that this custom is remembered to the present day in 
the patois of the peasantry, even where the Irish language is no 
longer spoken. In the south, and in parts of the west, they call a 
distinguished fighting man a buailim sciach, an expression which 
means literally, " I strike the shield." 


prolong your torment ; for none can release you from 
these bonds till you die ! " 

Dermat then returned to the cave; and he and 
Grania ate their meal and slept that night, Modan 
watching. In the morning, Dermat told Grania all 
that had happened from beginning to end ; how fifty 
of the foreigners had been killed each day for the first 
three days ; how he had slain a much greater number 
on the fourth day ; and how he had overcome and 
bound the three sea-champions in hard iron bonds. 

"I have left them bound on the hill," continued 
he, " instead of killing them ; because I would rather 
their torment to be long than short. For there are 
only four men in Erin that can loosen the bonds I tie ; 
that is to say, Oisin, and Oscar, and Mac Luga, and 
Conan Mail; and I think no one of these will free 
them. Finn will doubtless hear of their state, and the 
news will sting him to the heart. But he will know 
that we are here ; so we must now leave this cave, to 
escape him, and also to escape the three venomous 

So they came forth from the cave, and travelled 
eastward till they came to the Grey Moor of Finnlia ; 
and whenever Grania was tired, or when they had to 
walk over rugged places, Modan lifted her tenderly 
and carried her, without ever being in the least tired 
himself. And so they journeyed, till they reached the 
broad, heathery slopes of Slieve Lougher ; * and they 

* Slieve Lougher, a mountain near Castle Island. (See note, 
page 237.) 


sat down to rest on the green bank of a stream that 
wound through the heart of the mountain. 

Now as to the sea-strangers. Those of them that 
were left alive landed from their ships, and coming to 
the hill, found their three chiefs bound tightly, hand 
and foot and neck. And they tried to loose them, but 
only made their bonds the tighter. While they were 
go engaged, they saw Finn's errand-woman coming 
towards them, with the speed of a swallow, or of a 
weasel, or of the swift, cold wind blowing over a 
mountain-side. When she had come near, she greeted 
them, and, seeing the bodies of the slain, she asked 
who it was that had made that fearful slaughter. 

"Tell us first," said they, "who art thou that 
makest this inquiry ? " 

" I am Derdri of the Black Mountain, the errand- 
woman of Finn the son of Cumal/' she replied ; " and 
he has sent me hither to look for you." 

And they said, " We know not who made this 
slaughter; but we can tell thee his appearance, for 
that we know well. He was a tall warrior, with a 
fair, handsome, open countenance, and jet-black, curly 
hair. He has been three days fighting against us ; 
and what grieves us even more than the slaughter oi 
our men is that our three chiefs lie here bound by 
him so firmly that we are not able to loose them from 
their bonds." 

" Alas, friends ! * said Derdri ; " you have sped but 
badly at the very beginning of your quest ; for this 
man was Dermat O'Dyna himself. And now loose 


your three venomous dogs on his track without delay ; 
and I will return and send Finn to meet you." 

Then they brought forth the three hounds, and 
loosed them on the track of Dermat ; and leaving one 
of their druids to attend to the three fettered chiefs, 
they followed the hounds till they came to the cave, 
where they found the soft, rushy bed of Dermat and 
Grania. From that they fared east, and crossing the 
Oarra, and the Grey Moor of Finnlia, and the Laune, 
they reached at length the broad, heathy Slieve 

As Dermat sat by the mountain stream with 
Grania and Modan, looking westward, he saw the 
silken banners of the foreigners at a distance as they 
approached the hill. In front of all marched three 
warriors with mantles of green, who held the three 
fierce hounds by three chains. And Dermat, when he 
saw the hounds, was filled with loathing and hatred 
of them. Then Modan lifted Grania, and walked a 
mile with Dermat up the stream into the heart of 
the mountain. 

When the green-clad warriors saw them, they 
loosed one of the three hounds; and when Grania 
heard his hoarse yelps down the valley, she was in 
great dread. But Modan bade her not fear, for that 
he would deal with this hound; and then, turning 
round, he drew forth from beneath his girdle a small 
hound-whelp, and placed it on the palm of his hand. 
There it stood till the great hound came up raging, 
with jaws wide open; when the little whelp leaped 


from Modan's hand down the dog's throat, and broke 
his heart, so that he fell dead. And after that the 
whelp leaped back again on Modan's hand ; and Modan 
put him under his girdle. 

Then they walked another mile up the stream 
through the mountain, Modan bringing Grania. But 
the second hound was loosed, and soon overtook them ; 
and Dermat said 

" I will try the Ga-derg on this hound. For no 
spell can guard against the magic spear of Angus of 
the Bruga ; and I have heard it said also that there 
is no charm that can shield the throat of an animal 
from being wounded." 

Then, while Modan and Grania stood to look, 
Dermat, putting his ringer into the silken loop of the 
spear, threw a cast, and drove the spear-head down 
the hound's throat, so that the entrails of the brute 
were scattered about; and Dermat, leaping forward, 
drew the spear, and followed Modan and Grania. 

After they had walked yet another mile, the third 
hound was loosed ; and Grania, seeing him coming on, 
said, trembling 

" This is the fiercest of the three, and I greatly fear 
him; guard yourself, Dermat, guard yourself well 
against this hound ! " 

Even while she spoke, the hound overtook them 
at the place called Duban's Pillar-stone ; and as they 
stood looking back at him, Dermat stepped in front 
of Grania to shield her. The hound rose with a great 
spring over Dermat's head to seize Grania; but 


Dermat grasped him by the two hind legs as he 
passed, and, swinging him round, he struck his carcase 
against a rock and dashed out his brains. 

Then, putting his tapering finger into the silken 
string of the Ga-derg, he threw the spear at the fore- 
most of the green-clad knights, and slew him. He 
made another cast of the Ga-boi and brought down 
the second warrior; and, drawing the Morallta, he 
sprang on the third, and swept off his head. 

When the foreigners saw their leaders slain, they 
fled hither and thither in utter rout. And Dermat 
fell upon them with sword and spear, scattering and 
slaughtering them, so that there seemed no escape for 
them, unless, indeed, they could fly over the tops of 
the trees, or hide themselves under the earth, or dive 
beneath the water. And when Derdri of the Black 
Mountain saw this havoc, she ran, panic-stricken and 
crazed with fright, off the field towards the hill where 
the three kings lay bound. 

Now as to Finn. Tidings were brought to him of 
what happened to the three sea-kings, and how they 
were lying bound in hard bonds on the hill over Tonn- 
Toma. So he set out straightway from Allen, and 
travelled by the shortest ways till he reached the hill. 
And when he saw the three champions, he was grieved 
to the heart ; for he knew of old that the iron fetters 
bound by Dermat slew by slow torment, and that 
none could loose them except Oisin, or Oscar, or Mac 
Luga, or Conan Mail. 

And Finn asked Oisin to loose the bonds ana 
relieve the kings. 


"I cannot do so," answered Oisin, "for Dermat 
bound me under gesa 13 never to loose any warrior 
that he should bind." 

He next asked Oscar; but the young warrior 
answered, " None shall be released by me who seeks to 
harm Dermat O'Dyna. Fain would I indeed put 
heavier bonds on them." 

And when he asked Mac Luga and Conan, they 
refused in like manner. 

Now while they were speaking in this wise, they 
saw the errand-woman, Derdri of the Black Mountain, 
running towards them, breathless and with failing 
steps, and her eyes starting from the sockets with 
terror. And Finn asked her what tidings she had 

"Tidings indeed, O king, tidings of grievous 
mishap and woe ! " Whereupon she told him all that 
she had seen how Dermat O'Dyna had killed the 
three fierce hounds, and had made a slaughter of the 
foreigners. " And hardly, indeed," she cried, " hardly 
have I myself got off scathless with the news ! " 

The three kings, hearing this, and being worn out 
with the straitness and torment of their bonds, died at 
the same moment. And Finn caused them to be 
buried in three wide graves; and flagstones were 
placed over them with their names graved in Ogam ; * 
and their funeral rites were performed. Then, with 
heart full of grief and gall, Finn marched northwards 
with his men to Allen of the green hill-slopes. 

* See note, page 36. 




Now touching Dermat and Grania. They travelled 
eastward from Slieve Lougher, through Hy Conall 
Gavra, keeping the Shannon on their left, till they 
reached the Wood of the two Sallow Trees, which is 
now called Limerick. Here they rested ; and Dermat 
killed a wild deer, and they ate of its flesh, and drank 
pure spring water, and slept that night. Next morn- 
ing Modan bade them farewell, and left them. And 
Dermat and Grania were sad after him, for he was very 
gentle, and had served them faithfully. 

On that same day they departed from the Wood of 
the two Sallows; and nothing is related of what befell 
them till they arrived at the Forest of Dooros, in the 
district of Hy Ficra* of the Moy, which was at that 
time guarded by Sharvan the Surly, of Lochlann. 

Now this is the history of Sharvan the Surly, of 
Lochlann. On a certain occasion, a game of hurley 
was played by the Dedannans against theFena,on the 
plain beside the Lake of Lein of the Crooked Teeth, f 
They played for three days and three nights, neither 
side being able to win a single goal from the other 
during the whole time. And when the Dedannans 

* Hy Ficra, now the barony of Tireragh, in Sligo. 
t The Lake of Lein of the Crooked Teeth, i.e. Loch Lein, or the 
Lakes of Killarney 


found that they could not overcome the Fena, they 
suddenly withdrew from the contest, and departed 
from the lake, journeying in a body northwards. 

The Dedannans had for food during the game, and 
for their journey afterwards, crimson nuts and arbutus 
apples and scarlet quicken berries, which they had 
brought from the Land of Promise. * These fruits 
were gifted with many secret virtues ; and the De- 
dannans were careful that neither apple nor nut nor 
berry should touch the soil of Erin. But as they 
passed through the Wood of Dooros, in Hy Ficra of 
the Moy, one of the scarlet quicken berries dropped on 
the earth ; and the Dedannans passed on, not heeding. 

From this berry a great quicken tree f sprang up, 
which had the virtues of the quicken trees that grow 
in Fairyland. For its berries had the taste of honey, 
and those who ate of them felt a cheerful flow of 
spirits, as if they had drunk of wine or old mead ; and 
if a man were even a hundred years old, he returned 
to the age of thirty, as soon as he had eaten three of 

Now when the Dedannans heard of this tree, and 
knew of its many virtues, they would not that any 
one should eat of the berries but themselves ; and they 
sent a Fomor J of their own people to guard it, namely, 
Sharvan the Surly, of Lochlann ; so that no man dared 
even to approach it. For this Sharvan was a giant of 

* The Land of Promise, or Fairyland. (See note 8 at the end.) 
. f Quicken tree. (See note, page 177.) 
J Fomor, a priant. (See note, page 227.) 


the race of the wicked Cain, burly and strong ; with 
heavy bones, large, thick nose, crooked teeth, and one 
broad, red, fiery eye a in the middle of his black forehead. 
And he had a great club tied by a chain to an iron 
girdle which was round his body. He was, moreover, 
so skilled in magic that fire could not burn him, water 
could not drown him, and weapons could not wound 
him ; and there was no way to kill him but by giving 
him three blows of his own club. By day he sat at 
the foot of the tree, watching ; and at night he slept 
in a hut he had made for himself, high up among the 

Into this land Dermat came, knowing well that he 
should be safe there from the pursuit of Finn. For 
Sharvan did not let any of the Fena hunt in Hy Ficra. 
And neither they nor any others dared to come near 
the great Wood of Dooros, for dread of the giant ; so 
that the land around the quicken tree for many miles 
was a wilderness. 

Dermat, leaving Grania behind in safe shelter, went 
boldly to the giant, where he sat at the foot of the 
tree, and told him he wished to live amidst the woods 
of Hy Ficra, and chase its wild animals for food. 
Whereupon the giant, bending his red eye on him, told 
him, in words few and surly, that he might live and 
hunt where he pleased, as long as he did not take 
and eat the berries of the quicken tree. 

So Dermat built him a hunting-booth near a spring, 
in the thick of the Forest of Dooros ; and, clearing a 
space all round, fenced it with strong stakes inter- 


woven with tough withes, leaving one narrow door 
well barred and secured. And they lived in peace for 
a time, eating the flesh of the wild animals of Dooros, 
which Dermat brought down each day in the chase, 
and drinking the water of the well. 

Now let us speak of Finn, the son of Oumal. One 
day, soon after his return to Allen, as ne and his 
household troops were on the exercise green before the 
palace, a company of fifty horsemen were seen ap 
preaching from the east, led by two taller and nobler 
looking than the others. Having come near, they 
bowed low and greeted the king ; and when he asked 
them who they were, and from whence they had come, 
they answered 

"We are enemies of thine, who now desire to make 
peace ; and our names are Angus, the son of Art Mac 
Morna, and Aed, the son of Andala Mac Morna. Our 
fathers were present at the battle of Knocka, 27 aiding 
those who fought against thy father, Cumal, when he 
was slain ; for which thou didst afterwards slay them 
both, and didst outlaw us, their sons, though indeed 
we were blameless in the matter, seeing that we were 
not born till after the death of Cumal. However, we 
have come now to ask this boon of thee : that thou 
make peace with us, and give us the places our fathers 
held in the ranks of the Fena." 

" I will grant your request/' answered Finn, " pro- 
vided you pay me eric for the death of my father." 

" We would indeed pay thee eric willingly if we 
could," answered they ; " but we have neither gold, 


nor silver, nor cattle, nor wealth of any kind to 

And then Oisin spoke and said, " Ask them not for 
eric, king ; surely the death of their fathers should 
be eric enough." 

But Finn replied, " Of a truth, I think, Oisin, that 
if any one should slay me, it would not be hard to 
satisfy you in the matter of an eric. But, indeed, none 
of those who fought at Knocka against my father, and 
none of their sons, shall ever get peace from me, or join 
the Fena, without such eric as I demand." 

Then Angus, one of the two, asked, "What eric 
dost thou require, king ? " 

"I ask only one or the other of two things," 
answered Finn ; " namely, the head of a warrior, o" 
the full of my hand of the berries of a quicken tree." 

"I will give you counsel, ye sons of Morna, that 
will stand you in good stead, if you follow it," said 
Oisin, addressing the two strange chiefs; "and my 
counsel is, that you return to the place from whence 
you came, and seek this peace no longer. Know that 
the head the king seeks from you is the head of 
Dermat O'Dyna, the most dangerous of all the Fena to 
meddle with, who is well able to defend himself, even 
if you were twenty times as many as you are; and 
who will certainly take your heads if you attempt to 
take his. Know also that the berries Finn seeks from 
you are the berries of the quicken tree of Dooros. 
And it is hard to say if this be not a more perilous 
quest than the other ; for the quicken tree belongs to 


the Dedannans, who have sent Sharvan, the surly 
giant ot Lochlann, to guard it day and night." 

But the two chiefs, unmoved by what they had 
heard from Oisin, said that they would rather perish 
in seeking out the eric than return to their mother's 
country. So, leaving their people in the care of Oisin, 
they set out on their quest. They travelled through 
the Wood of the two Sallows, and from that to Dooros 
of the Moy, where they found the track of Dermat 
and Grania, and followed it till they came to the 
hunting-booth. Dermat heard their voices and foot- 
steps outside, and, snatching up his weapons, went to 
the door and asked who was there. 

" We are Aed, the son of Andala Mac Morna, and 
Angus, the son of Art Mac Morna," they replied. " We 
have come hither from Allen of Leinster, to get either 
the head of Dermat O'Dyna, or a handful of the 
berries of the quicken tree of Dooros ; for Finn, the 
son of Cumal, has demanded of us that we bring him 
either the one or the other, as an eric for the killing 
of his father." 

Dermat laughed when he heard this, and said, 
" Truly this is not pleasant news for me to hear, for 
I am Dermat O'Dyna. But however, friends, I am 
not willing to give you my head, and you will find it 
no easy matter to take it. And as for the berries, 
these are quite as hard to get ; for you will have to 
fight the surly giant Sharvan, who cannot be burned 
with fire, or drowned with water, or wounded with 
weapons. But woe to the man who falls under the 


power of Finn, the son of Cumal. And you have come, 
methinks, on a bootless quest ; for even if you shouid 
be able to bring him either of the two things he asks 
for, he will not grant you the place or the rank ye 
seek after all. And now," asked Dermat, "which of 
the two do ye wish to strive for first, my head or the 
quicken berries ? " 

And they answered, " We will do battle with thee 

So Dermat opened the door, and they made ready 
for the combat. Now this is the manner in which 
they agreed to fight: to throw aside their weapons, 
and to use the strength of their hands alone. And if 
the sons of Morna were able to overcome Dermat, they 
should take his head to Finn; but if, on the other 
hand, they were overpowered and bound by Dermat, 
their heads should be in like manner forfeit to him. 
But the fight was, indeed, a short one ; for these two 
chiefs were even as children in Dermat's hands, and 
he bound them in close and bitter bonds. 

Now when Grania heard of the berries of the 
quicken tree, she was seized with a longing desire to 
taste them. At first she strove against it and was 
silent, knowing the danger ; but now she was not able 
to hide it any longer, and she told Dermat that she 
should certainly die if she did not get some of the 
berries to eat. This troubled Dermat, for he did not 
wish to quarrel with the giant Sharvan ; but, seeing 
that harm might come to Grania if she did not get the 
berries, he told her he would go and get some for her, 
either by good will or by force. 


When the sons of Morna heard this, they said, 
"Loose these bonds, and we will go with thee and help 
thee to fight the giant." 

But Dermat answered, "Not much help, indeed, 
could ye give me, as I think, for the mere sight of this 
giant would be enough to unman you. Bub even were 
it otherwise, I would not seek your help, f r if I fi^M 
at all I shall fight unaided." 

And they said, " Even so, let us go. Our lives are 
now forfeit to thee, but grant us this request beiore we 
die, to let us see thee fight this giant." 

And he consented to this. 

So Dermat went straightway to the quicken tree, 
followed by the two sons of Morna ; and he found the 
giant lying asleep at the foot of the tree. He dealt 
him a heavy blow to awaken him, and the giant, 
raising his head, glared at him with his great red eye, 
and said 

" There has been peace between us hitherto ; do 
you now wish for strife ? " 

" I seek not rife," answered Dermat ; " but the 
Princess Grania, my wife, the daughter of king 
Cormac Mac Art, longs to taste of these quicken 
berries ; and if she does not get them she will die. 
This is why I have come ; and now I pray you give 
me a few of the berries for the princess." 

But the giant answered, " I swear that if the 
princess and her child were now dying, and that one 
of my berries would save them, I would not give it ! " 

Then Dermat said, " I do not wish to deal unfairly 


with you ; and I have accordingly awakened you from 
your sleep, and made my request openly, wishing for 
peace. But now understand that before I leave this 
spot, I will have some of these quicken berries, whether 
you will or no." 

When the giant heard this, he rose up, and, seizing 
his club, dealt Dermat three great blows, which the 
hero had much ado to ward off; nor did he escape 
without some hurt, even though his shield was tough 
and his arm strong. But now, watching narrowly, 
and seeing that the giant expected to be attacked with 
sword and spear, he suddenly threw down his weapons 
and sprang upon him, taking him unguarded. He 
threw his arms round his body, and, heaving him 
with his shoulder, hurled him with mighty shock to 
the earth ; and then, seizing the heavy club, he dealt 
him three blows, dashing out his brains with the 

Dermat sat down to rest, weary and breathless. 
And the sons of Morna, having witnessed the fight 
from beginning to end, came forth rejoiced when they 
saw the giant slain. Dermat told them to drag the 
body into the wood and bury it out of sight, lest 
Grania might see it and be affrighted ; and when they 
had done so, he sent them for the princess. When she 
had come, Dermat said to her 

" Behold the quicken berries, Grania : take now 
and eat." 

But she answered, " I will eat no berries except 
those that are plucked by the hands of my husband." 


So Dermat stood up and plucked the berries ; and 
Grania ate till she was satisfied. And he also plucked 
some for the sons of Morna, and said 

" Take these berries now, friends, as much as you 
please, and pay your eric to Finn; and you may, it 
you are so minded, tell him that it was you who slew 
Sharvan the Surly, of Lochlann." 

They answered, " We will bring to Finn as much 
as he demanded, one handful and no more; and we 
grudge even so much." 

Then they thanked Dermat very much ; for he 
had given them the berries, what they should never 
have been able to get for themselves; and though 
their lives were forfeit to him, he had not so much as 
mentioned the matter, but had allowed them to return 
freely. And after bidding Dermat and Grania fare- 
well, they went their ways. 

After that Dermat left his hunting-booth, and he 
and Grania lived thenceforth in Sharvan's hut among 
the branches. And they found the berries on the top 
of the tree the most delicious of all; those on the 
lower branches being as it were bitter in comparison. 

When the sons of Morna reached Allen, Finn 
asked them how they had fared, and whether they 
had brought him the eric : and they answered 

" Sharvan, the surly giant of Lochlann, is slain; and 
here we have brought thee the berries of the quicken 
tree of Dooros as eric for the death of thy father, 
Cumal, that we may have peace from thee, and be 
placed in our due rank among the Fena." 


Finn took the berries and knew them ; and he 
smelled them three times, and said 

" These, indeed, are the berries of the quicken tree 
of Dooros ; but they nave passed through the hands of 
Dermat O'Dyna, tor I smell his touch. And sure f 
am that it was .Dermat, and not you, who slew 
Sharvan, the surly giant. It shall profit you nothing, 
indeed, to ha^e brought me these berries ; neither will 
you get from me the peace you seek, nor your place 
among the Fena, till you pay me fair eric for my 
father's death, For you have gotten the berries not 
by your own strength ; and you have, besides, made 
peace with my enemy. And now I shall go to the 
Wood of Dooros, to learn if Dermat abides near the 
quicken tree." 

After this he gathered together the choice men 
of the seven battalions of the Fena, and marched with 
them to Dooros of Hy Ficra. They followed Dermat's 
track to the foot of the quicken tree, and found the 
berries without any one to guard them ; and they ate 
of them as much as they pleased. 

Mow it was noon when they had come to the 
tree ; and the sun shone hot, and Finn said 

" We shall rest under this tree till evening come, 
and the heat pass away ; for well I know that Dermat 
O'Dyna is on the tree among the branches." 

And Oisin said, " Truly your mind must be 
blinded by jealousy, if you think that Dermat O'Dyna 
has waited for you on that tree, since he knows well 
that you seek his head." 


Finn answered nothing to this speech, but called 
for a chess-board and men. 26 And he and Oisin sat 
down to a game; while Oscar and Mac Luga and 
Bering, the son of Dobar O'Baskin, sat near Oisin 
to advise him; for Finn played against them all. 
They played on for a time warily and skilfully, till 
at last Oisin had only one move to make ; and Finn 

" One move more would win you the game, Oisin, 
but I challenge all your helpers to show you that 
move." And Oisin was puzzled. 

Dermat had been viewing the game from the 
beginning, where he sat among the branches ; and he 
said, speaking to himself 

" Pity that you should be in a strait, Oisin, and I 
not near to advise your move." 

Grania, sitting near, overheard him, and said, " It 
is a small matter whether Oisin win or lose a game ; 
far worse is it for you to be in this hut, while the 
men of the seven battalions of theFena are round 
about you, waiting to kill you." 

Then Dermat, not giving heed to Grania's words, 
plucked a berry, and, flinging it down with true aim, 
struck Oisin's chess-man the man that should be 
moved. And Oisin moved the man, and won the 
game against Finn. 

The game was begun again, and it went on till it 
came to the same pass as before, Oisin having to make 
only one move to win, but that move hard to make 
out. And again Dermat threw a berry and struck 


the right man; and Oisin made the move, and won 
the game. 

A third time the game went on, and Dermat struck 
the chess-man as before ; and Oisin won the game the 
third time. Whereupon the Fe 1 1 a raised a mighty shout 

"I marvel not that you should win the game, 
Oisin," said Finn, "seeing that you have the best 
help of Oscar, and the zeal of Bering, and the skill 
of Mac Luga ; and that, along with all, you have been 
prompted by Dermat O'Dyna." 

" It shows a mind clouded by great jealousy," said 
Oscar, " that you should think that Dermat O'Dyna 
is in that tree waiting for you to kill him." 

."Which of us tells truth, Dermat," said Finn, 
looking up, " Oscar or I ? " 

" You, Finn, have never yet erred in your judg- 
ment," answered Dermat from the tree ; " for indeed 
I am here with the princess Grania, in the hut of 
Sharvan, the surly giant of Lochlann." 

And, looking up, Finn and the others saw them 
plainly through an opening in the branches. 

But now Grania, seeing the danger, began to 
tremble with great fear, and to weep ; and Dermat, 
taking pity on her, comforted her and kissed her 
three times. 

And Finn, seeing this, said, " Much more than this 
did it grieve me the night you espoused Grania, and 
brought her away from Tara before all the men of 
Erin; but even for these kisses you shall certainly 
pay quittance with your head ! " 


Whereupon Finn, being now bent on killing 
Dermat, arose, and ordered his hireling? to surround 
the tree, catching hand in hand, so as to leave no gap ; 
and he warned them, on pain of death, not to let 
Dermat pass out. Having done this, he offered a suit 
of armour and arms, and a high place of honour among 
the Feua, to any man who would go up into the tree, 
and either bring him the head of Dermat O'Dyna, or 
force him to come down. 

Garva of Slieve Cua * started up and said, " Lo, 
I am the man ! For it was Dermat's father, Donn, 
that slew my father ; and I will now avenge the deed." 

And he went up the tree. 

Now it was revealed to Angus of the Bruga that 
Dermat was in deadly strait ; and he came to the tree 
to his aid, without the knowledge of the Fena ; and 
Dermat and Grania were filled with joy when they 
saw the old man. 

And when Garva, climbing from branch to branch, 
had come near the hut, Dermat dealt him a blow with 
his foot, which dashed him to the ground among the 
Fena. And Finn's hirelings cut off his head on the 
spot, for Angus had caused him to take the shape of 
Dermat; but after he was slain he took his own 
shape, so that all knew that it was Garva of Slieve 
Cua that had been killed. 

Then Garva of Slieve Grot "f- said, " It was Der- 

* Slieve Cna, the ancient name of the highest of the Kuockmeal- 
down mountains, in Waterford. 

t Slieve Grot, the ancient name of the Galty mountains. 


mat's father, Donn, that slew my father; and I will 
now avenge the deed on Dermat." 

So saying, he went up the tree. But Angus gave 
him a blow which hurled him to the ground under 
the shape of Dermat, so that the hirelings fell on him 
and slew him. And then Finn told them that it was 
not Dermat they had killed, but Garva of Slieve Cua. 

Garva of Slieve Gora * next started up, and said 
that his father had been slain by Dermat's father ; and 
he began to climb up the tree to take Dermat's head 
in revenge. But Dermat flung him down like the 
others, while Angus gave him for the time the shape 
of Dermat, so that the hirelings slew him. 

And so matters went on till the nine Garvas had 
fallen ; namely, Garva of Slieve Cua, Garva of Slieve 
Grot, Garva of Slieve Gora, Garva of Slieve Mucka,f 
Garva of Slieve-more, Garva of Slieve Luga, Garva 
of Ath-free, Garva of Slieve Mish, and Garva of 
Drom-more. And full of grief and bitterness was the 
heart of Finn, witnessing this. 

Then Angus said he would take Grania away from 
that place of danger. And Dermat was glad, and 

" Take her with thee ; and if I live till evening I 

* Slieve Gora, a mountainous district in the barony of Clankee, 
County Cavan. 

t Slieve Mncka, now Slievenamuck (the mountain of the pig), a- 
long mountain ridge in Tipperary, separated from the Galties by the 
Glen of Aherlow., Slieve Luga, a mountainous district, formerly 
belonging to the O'Garas, in the barony of Costello, county Mayo. 
Slieve Mish, a mountain range west of Tralee. 


will follow you. But if Finn slays me, send her to 
Tara to her father, and tell him to use her well." 

Then Dermat kissed his dear wife ; and Angus, 
having thrown his mantle round her. passed out from 
the tree without the knowledge of the Fen a, and went 
straightway to Bruga of the Boyne. 

After Angus and Grania had gone, Dermat, 
addressing Finn from the tree, said 

" I will now go down from this tree ; and I will 
slaughter many of thy hirelings before they slay me. 
For I see that thou art resolved to compass my death ; 
and why should I fear to die now more than at a 
future time ? There is, indeed, no escape for me, even 
should I pass from this place unharmed ; since I can 
find no shelter in Erin from thy wrath. Neither have 
I a friend in the far-off countries of this great world 
to give me protection, seeing that I have from time to 
time dealt defeat and slaughter among them, every 
one, for thy sake. For never have theFena been 
caught in any strait or danger, that I did not venture 
my life for them and for thee. When we went to 
battle, moreover, I was always in front of you ; and I 
was always behind you when leaving the field. And 
now I care no longer to* seek to prolong my life; but 
of a certainty thou shalt purchase my death dearly, 
for I shall avenge myself by dealing destruction 
among thy hirelings." 

" Dermat speaks truly," said Oscar ; " and now let 
him have mercy and forgiveness ; for he has suffered 
enough already." 


"I swear that I will never grant him peace or 
forgiveness to the end of my life," answered Finn, 
" till he has given me the eric I seek from him for the 
injury he has done me; that is to say, his head." 

" Shame it is to hear thee say so, and a sure mark 
of jealousy," answered Oscar. " And now I take the 
body and life of Dermat under the protection of my 
knighthood and valour ; and I pledge the word of a 
true champion, that sooner shall the firmament fall on 
me, or the earth open up and swallow me, than that 
I shall let any man harm Dermat O'Dyna ! " 

Then, looking upwards, he said, " Come down now, 
Dermat, and thou shalt certainly go in safety from 
this place ; for as long as I am alive, no man will dare 
to offer thee hurt ! " 

Then Dermat, choosing that side of the tree where 
the men stood nearest to the trunk, walked along a 
thick branch unseen, and, leaning on the shafts of his 
spears, he sprang forward and downward with a light, 
airy bound, and alighted outside the circle of those 
who stood round with joined hands ; and in a moment 
he was beyond the reach of sword and spear. And 
Oscar joined him, looking back threateningly, so that 
no man of Finn's hirelings durst follow. 

So the two heroes fared on together, crossing the 
Shannon ; and nothing is told of what befell them till 
they reached Bruga of the Boyne, where they met 
Angus and Grania. And Grania was almost beside 
herself with joy when she saw Dermat without wound 
or hurt of any kind. And the two champions were 


welcomed by Angus ; and Dermat related to him and 
Grania the whole story, how he had escaped from 
Finn and his hirelings, Oscar helping. And as Grania 
listened, her spirit almost left her, at the deadly 
peril Dermat had passed through. 



Now as regards Finn. After the departure of Dermat 
and Oscar, his heart was filled with anger and bitter- 
ness, and he vowed he would never rest till he had 
revenged himself on Dermat. And, leaving the Wood 
of Dooros, he marched eastward till he reached Allen. 
Making no delay, he ordered his trusted servants to 
make ready his best ship, and to put therein food and 
drink for a voyage. Then going on board, he put out 
to sea ; and nothing is told of him till he reached the 
Land of Promise, 8 where his old nurse lived. 

When he appeared before her, she gave him a joyful 
welcome. And after he had eaten and drunk, she 
asked him the cause of his journey, knowing that 
some weighty matter had brought him thither. So he 
told her the whole story of what Dermat O'Dyna had 
done against him ; and said that he had come to seek 
counsel from her how he should act. " For," he said, 
" no strength or cunning of men can compass bis death; 
magic alone can overmatch him." 


Then the old woman told him that she would go 
with him next day and work magic against Dermat. 
Whereupon Finn was much rejoiced, and they rested 
that night. 

Next day, they set out, Finn and his people and 
his nurse ; and it is not told how they fared till they 
reached Bruga of the Boyne. And the men of Erin 
knew not that they had come thither, for the witch- 
hag threw a druidical mist round them, so that no 
man might see them. 

It chanced that Dermat hunted that day in the 
forest, alone ; for Oscar had gone from Bruga the day 
before. When this was known to the witch-hag, she 
caused herself to fly into the air by magic, on a water- 
lily, having by her spells turned the pale flat leaf 
into a broad millstone with a hole in the middle. 
And, rising over the tops of the trees, she floated on 
the clear, cold wind, till she had come straight over 
the hero. Then, standing on the flat millstone, she 
began to aim deadly poisoned darts at him through 
the hole. And no distress Dermat ever suffered could 
compare with this; for the darts stung him even 
Jirough his shield and armour, the witch having 
breamed venomous spells on them. 

Seeing at last that there was no escape from 
death unless he could slay the witch-hag, he seized 
the Ga-derg, and, leaning backwards, flung it with 
sure aim at the millstone, so that it went right 
through the hole, and pierced the hag ; and she fell 
dead at Dermat's feet. Then he beheaded her, and 


brought the head to Angus of the Bruga; and he 
related to him and to Grania how he had escaped that 
great danger. 



ANGUS arose next morning, and, going to Finn, asked 
him whether he would make peace with Dermat. 
Finn, seeing that he was worsted in every attempt 
against the hero, and that moreover he had lost his 
nurse and many of his men, told Angus that he was 
weary of the quarrel, and that he was fain to make 
peace on whatever terms Dermat should choose. 

He next went to Tara to the king, Cormac, the 
grandson of Conn. Him he asked in like manner 
whether he was willing to grant Dermat peace and 
forgiveness; and Cormac answered that he was quite 

Then he came to Dermat and said, " Peace is better 
for thee : art thou willing now to be at peace with 
Finn and Cormac ? " 

And Dermat answered, " Gladly will I make peace, 
if they grant me such conditions as befit a champion 
and the husband of the princess Grania." 

And when Angus asked what these conditions 
were, he answered 


" The cantred which my father had, that is to say, 
the cantred of O'Dyna,* without rent or tribute to the 
king of Erin ; also the cantred of Ben-Damis,-}- namely, 
Ducarn of Leinster. These two to be granted to me 
by Finn ; and he shall not hunt over them, nor any 
of his Fena, without my leave. And the king of 
Erin shall grant me the cantred of Kesh-Corran ; J as 
a dowry with his daughter. On these conditions will 
I make peace." 

Angus went to Finn, and afterwards to the king, 
with these conditions. And they granted them, and 
forgave Dermat all he had done against them during 
the time he was outlawed. So they made peace. 
And Cormac gave his other daughter to Finn to wife. 

Dermat and Grania went to live in the cantred of 
Kesh-Corran, far away from Finn and Cormac; and 
they built a house for themselves, namely, Rath- 
Grania, in which they abode many years in peace. 
And Grania bore Dermat four sons and one daughter. 
And his possessions increased year by year, insomuch 
that people said that no man of his time was richer 
than Dermat, in gold and silver and jewels, in sheep, 
and in cattle-herds. 

* The cantred of O'Dyna, now the barony of Corkaguiny, in Kerry. 
(See note, page 237.) 

f The cantred of Ben-Damis, or Ducarn of Leinster, probably the 
district round Douce mountain, in the county Wicklow. 

J The district round the mountain of Kesh-Corran, in Sligo. 




Now when many years had passed, Grania said one 
day to Dermal 

"It ib buieiy a thing unworthy of us, seeing the 
greatness of our household and our wealth, and the 
number of our folk, that we should live in a manner 
o much removed from the world. And in a special 
manner it is unbecoming that the two most illustrious 
men in Erin have never been in our house, namely, 
my father the king, and Finn the son of Cumal." 

For indeed she had not seen her father since the 
night she had left Tara with Dermat, and her heait 
yearned for him. 

" Wherefore say you this, Grania ? " answered 
Dermat; "for though there is indeed peace between 
as, they are both none the less enemies of mine ; and 
tor this reason have I removed my dwelling far apart 
from them." 

And Grania said, " Their enmity has surely 
softened with length of time : and now I would that 
you give them a feast : so shall we win back their 
friendship and love." 

And in an evil hour Dermat consented. 

For a full year were they preparing for that great 
feast, and when it was ready, messengers were sent to 
invite the king, with his house-folk, and Finn, with 


the chief men ot the seven batallions of the Fena. So 
they came, with their attendants and followers, their 
horses and dogs ; and they lived for a whole year in 
Rath-Grania, hunting and feasting. 

It chanced one night, at the end of the year, long 
after all had gone to rest, that Dermat heard, through 
the silence of the night, the distant yelping of a 
hound ; and he started up from his sleep. But Grania, 
being scared, started up also, and, throwing her arms 
round him, asked him what he had seen. 

" I have heard the voice of a hound," answered 
Dermat ; " and I marvel much to hear it at midnight." 

" May all things guard thee from harm ! " said 
Grania. " This is surely a trap laid for thee by the 
Dedannans, unknown to Angus of the Bruga : and now 
lie down on thy bed again." 

Dermat lay down, but did not sleep, and again he 
heard the hound's voice. He started up, and this time 
was fain to go and look to the matter; but Grania 
caught him and kept him back a second time, saying 
that it was not meet for him to seek a hound whose 
voice he heard in the night. 

A gentle slumber now fell on Dermat, and he slept 
through a good part of the night. But the yelping of 
the hound came a third time, and awakened him, so 
that he started up ; and it being now broad day, he 
told Grania that he would go to seek the hound, and 
find out why he was abroad in the night. 

And though Grania consented, she felt, she knew 
not why, ill at ease ; and she said 


" Bring with you the Morallta, the sword of 
Mannanan Mac Lir, and the Ga-derg,* Angus's spear : 
for there may be danger." 

But Dermat, regarding the matter lightly, and 
forced by fate to the worse choice, answered 

" How can danger arise from such a small affair ? 
I will bring the Begallta and the Ga-boi ; * and I will 
also bring my good hound Mac-an-coill, leading him 
by his chain." 

So Dermat went forth, and he delayed not till he 
reached the summit of Ben-Gulban,f where he found 
Finn ; and Dermat, offering him no salute, asked him 
who it was that held the chase. Finn answered 

" Some of our men came out from Rath-Grania at 
midnight with their hounds ; and one of the hounds 
coming across the track of a wild boar, both men and 
dogs have followed it up. I indeed would have held 
them back, but the men were eager, and left me here 
alone. For this is the track of the wild boar of 
Ben-Gulban, and they who follow him are bent on a 
vain and dangerous pursuit. Often has he been 
chased ; and he has always escaped, after killing many 
men and dogs. Even now thou canst see in the 
distance that the Fena are flying before him ; and he 
has slain several this morning. He is coming towards 
this hillock where we stand ; and the sooner we get 
out of his way the better." 

But Dermat said he would not leave the hillock 
through fear of any wild boar. 

* See note, page 302. 

t Now Benbnlbin, a mountain five miles north of the town 


"It is not meet that them shouldst tarry here," 
answered Finn. " Dost thou not know that thou art 
under gesa 12 never to hunt a boar ? " 

Dermat answered, " I know nothing of these gesa ; 
wherefore were they placed on me ? " 

And Finn said, " I will tell thce of this matter, for 
well do I remember it. When thou wert taken to 
Bruga of the Boyne, to be fostered by Angus, the son of 
Angus's steward was fostered with thee, that he might 
be a companion and playmate to thee. Now the 
steward, being a man of the common sort, agreed to 
send each day to Bruga, food and drink for nine men, 
as a price for having his son fostered with thee thy 
father, Donn, being one of the nobles of the Fena. 
And thy father was accordingly permitted to visit the 
house of Angus when it pleased him, with eight 
companions, and claim the food sent by the steward ; 
and when he did not come, it was to be given to 
Angus's house-folk 

" It chanced on a certain day that I was at Allen 
of the broad hill-slopes, with the chief men of the 
seven battalions of the Fena. And Bran Beg O'Bucan 
brought to my mind, what indeed I had forgotten, 
that it was forbidden to me to sleep at Allen more 
than nine nights one after another, and that the next 
would be thu tenth. 

" Now this restriction had not been placed on any 
of the Fena save myself, and they all went into the 
hall except thy father and a few others. Then I 
asked where we should get entertainment for that 



night. And thy father, Donn, answered that he would 
give me entertainment at Bruga of the Boyne ; where 
food and drink awaited himself and his companions 
whenever he visited Angus. Donn said, moreover, 
that he had not been to see his son for a year, and 
that we were sure to get a welcome. 

" So Donn and I and the few that were with us 
went to the house of Angus, bringing our hounds ; and 
Angus welcomed us. And thou and the steward's son 
were there, two children. After a while we could see 
that Angus loved thee, Dermat, very much, but that 
the house-folk loved the son of the steward ; and thy 
father was filled with jealousy, that the people should 
show fondness for him and not for thee. 

" After night had fallen, it chanced that our hounds 
quarrelled over some broken meat we had thrown to 
them, and began to fight in the court ; and the women 
and lesser people fled from them hither and thither. 
The son of the steward happened to run between thy 
father's knees, who, calling now to mind how the 
people favoured him more than thee, gave him a sudden 
strong squeeze with his knees, and killed him on the 
spot. And, without being seen by any one, he threw 
him under the feet of the hounds. 

" When at last the dogs were put asunder, the child 
was found dead ; and the steward uttered a long, 
mournful cry. Then he came to me and said 

" ' Of all the men in Angus's house to-night, I 
have come worst out of this uproar ; for this boy was 
my only child. And now, O Finn, I demand eric 


from thee for his death; for thy b.ounds have slain 

" I told him to examine the body of his son, and 
that if he found the mark of a hound's tooth or nail, I 
would give him eric. So the child was examined, bu< 
no hurt either bite or scratch was found on him. 

"Then the steward laid me under fearful bonda 
of druidical gesa, 12 to find out for him who slew his 
son. So I called for a chess-board and some water, and, 
having washed my hands, I put my thumb under my 
tooth of knowledge; 25 and then it was revealed to 
me that the boy had been slain by thy father. Not 
wishing to make this known, I now offered to pay eric 
for the boy ; but the steward refused, saying that he 
should know who killed his son. So I was forced to 
tell him : whereupon he said 

" ' It is easier for Donn to pay me eric than for any 
other man in this house. And the eric I demand is 
that his son be placed between my knees : if the lad 
gets off safe, then I shall follow up the matter no 

" Angus was very wroth at this ; and thy father 
would have struck off the steward's head if I had not 
come between and saved him. 

" The steward said no more, but went aside and 
brought forth a druidical magic wand, and, striking his 
son with it, he turned him into a great bristly wild 
boar, having neither ears nor tail. And, holding the 
wand aloft, he chanted this incantation over the 


' By this magical wand, 
By the wizard's command, 
I appoint and decree, 
For Dermat and thee, 
The same bitter strife, 
The same span of life : 
In the pride of his strength, 
Thou shalt slay him at length : 
Lo, Dermat O'Dyna 

Lies stretched in his gore ; 
Behold my avengers, 

The tusks of the boar ! 
And thus is decreed, 
For Donn's cruel deed, 
Sure vengeance to come 
His son's bloody doom ; 
By this wand in my hand, 
By the wizard's command ! 

"The moment he had ended the incantation, the 
boar rushed out through the open door, and we knew 
not whither he betook himself. 

" When Angus heard the steward's words, he laid 
a command on thee never to hunt a wild boar, that so 
thou mightest avoid the doom foretold for thee. 

" That same boar is the wild boar of Binbulbin ; 
and he is now rushing furiously towards us. Come, 
then, let us leave this hill at once, that we may avoid 
him in time ! " 

" I know nothing of these incantations and pro- 
hibitions," replied Dermat ; " or if, as thou sayest, they 
were put on me in my boyhood, I forget them all now. 
And neither for fear of this wild boar of Ben-Gulban 
nor of any other wild beast will I leave this hillock. 
But thou, before thou goest, leave me thy hound, Bran, 
to help and encourage my dog, Mac-an-coilL" 


" I will not leave him," answered Finn ; " for often 
has Bran chased this boar, and has always barely 
escaped with his life. And now I leave ; for lo, here 
he comes over yonder hill-shoulder." 

So Finn went his ways, and left Dermat standing 
alone on the hill. And after he had left Dermat 

" I fear me, indeed, that thou hast began this chase 
hoping that it would lead to my death. But here will 
I await the event ; for if I am fated to die in this spot, 
I cannot avoid the doom in store for me." 

Immediately the boar came rushing up the face of 
the hill, with the Fena following far behind. Der- 
mat loosed Mac-an-coill against him, but to no profit ; 
for the hound shied and fled before him at the first 
glance. Then Dermat said, communing with him- 

" Woe to him who does not follow the advice of a 
good wife ! For this morning Grania bade me bring 
the Morallta and the Ga-derg ; but I brought instead 
the Begallta and the Ga-boi, disregarding her counsel." 

Then, putting his white taper finger into the silken 
loop of the Ga-boi, he threw it with careful aim, and 
struck the boar in the middle of the forehead ; but to no 
purpose, for the spear fell harmless to the ground, 
having neither wounded nor scratched 'the boar, nor 
disturbed even a single bristle. 

Seeing this, Dermat, though indeed he knew not 
fear, felt his courage a little damped. And thereupon 
drawing the Begallta from its sheath, he dealt a blow 


on the boar's neck, with the full strength of his 
brawny arm. But neither did he fare better this 
time ; for the sword flew in pieces, leaving the hilt in 
his hand, while not a bristle of the boar was harmed. 

And now the boar rushed on him as he stood 
defenceless, and with furious onset hurled him head- 
long to the earth ; and, turning round, he gashed the 
hero's side with his tusk, inflicting a deep and ghastly 
ground. Turning again, he was about to renew the 
attack, when Dermat flung the hilt of the sword at 
him, and drove it through the skull to his brain, so 
that the brute fell dead on the spot. 

Finn and theFenanow came up, and found Dermat 
lying pale and bleeding, in the pangs of death. And 
Finn said 

"It likes me well, Dermat, to see thee in this 
plight ; only I am grieved that all the women of Erin 
cannot see thee also. For now, indeed, the surpassing 
beauty of thy form, that they loved so well, is gone 
from thee, and thou art pale and deformed ! " 

And Dermat answered, " Alas, O Finn ! these words 
surely come from thy lips only, and not from thy heart. 
And indeed it is in thy power to heal me even now if 
thou wilt." 

" How should I heal thee ? " asked Finn. 

" It is not hard for thee to do so," answered Der- 
mat. " For when, at the Boyne, the noble gift of fore- 
knowledge was given to thee, 25 this gift also thou didst 
receive that to whomsover thou shouldst give a drink 
of water from the closed palms of thy two hands, he 


should be healed from sickness or wounds, even though 
he stood at the point of death." 

"Why should I heal thee by giving thee drink 
from my hands ? " replied Finn, " For of a certainty 
thou of all men dost least deserve it from me." 

"Thou surely speakest hastily, not remembering 
past services," answered Dermat. " Well, indeed, do I 
deserve that thou shouldst heal me. Dost thou forget 
the day thou didst go with the chiefs and nobles of 
the Fen a, to the house of Derca, the son of Donnara, to 
a banquet ? And even as we sat down, and before the 
feast began, Carbri of the Liffey, son of Cormac, 
with the men of Tara, and of Bregia, and of Meath, 
and of Carmna, surrounded the palace, intent on slay- 
ing thee and all thy people. And they uttered three 
great shouts, and threw firebrands to burn the palace 
over our heads. Then thou didst arise and prepare to 
issue forth, but I put thee back and bade thee enjoy 
thy feast ; and, leaving the banquet untasted, I rushed 
forth with a chosen few of my own men, and quenched 
the flames. Thrice we made a circuit of the palace, 
dealing slaughter amongst thy foes, so that we left 
fifty of them dead after each circuit. And having put 
Carbri and his men to flight, we returned to join the 
feast. Had I asked thee for a drink that night, gladly 
wouldst thou have given it to me. And yet, not more 
justly was it due to me then than it is now." 

" 111 dost thou deserve a healing drink from me, or 
any other favour," said Finn ; " for it was thy part to 
guard Grania the night we came to Tara ; but thou 


didst espouse her secretly, and didst fly with her from 
Tara, knowing that she was betrothed to me." 

" Lay not the blame of that on me," said Dermat ; 
" for Grania put me under heavy gesa, which for all the 
wealth of the world I would not break through no, 
not even for life itself. Neither did I rest on my own 
judgment in the matter ; for well thou knowest that 
Oisin, and Oscar, and Bering, and Mac Luga counselled 
me to the course I took. 

" And now, Finn, I pray thee let me drink from 
thy hands, for I feel the weakness of death coming on 
me. And thou wilt not gainsay that I deserve it, if 
thou wilt only remember the feast that Midac, the son 
of Colga, made for thee in the Fairy Palace of the 
Quicken Trees.* To this feast Midac invited thee and 
thy companions ; while to the Palace of the Island he 
brought secretly the King of the World with a great 
host, and the three kings of the Island of the Torrent, 
with intent to slay thee and all thyFena. 

" Now Midac caused some of the clay of the Island 
of the Torrent to be placed under you, with foul spells, 
in the Palace of the Quicken Trees, so that your feet 
and your hands clove to the ground. And it was 
revealed to thee that the King of the World was about 
to send a chief with a troop of warriors, to slay you, 
helpless as you were, and to bring him your heads to 
the Palace of the Island. 

" But at that same time, I came to thee outside the 
Palace of the Quicken Trees ; and thou didst make 

* See this story told at length, page 177. 


known to me your deadly strait. Then did I take 
thee, Finn, and those who were with thee, under the 
protection of my knighthood and valour ; and I went 
to the ford to defend it against the foreigners. 

"And after a little time the three dragon-like 
kings of the Island of the Torrent came towards the 
palace : but I defended the ford, and, venturing my 
life for thee, I bore their attack and slew them all 
three. And I swept off their heads, and brought them, 
all gory as they were, in the hollow of my shield, to 
the palace where you lay miserably bound ; and, sprink- 
ling the clay with the blood, I broke the spell and set 
you free. And had I asked thee for a drink on that 
night, O Finn, of a surety thou wouldst not have 
refused me. 

" And many another deadly strait did I free you 
from, since the day I was admitted among the Fena, 
always putting myself forward to the post of danger, 
and perilling my life for your safety ; and now why 
dost thou requite me with this foul treachery ? 

" Moreover, many a king's son and many a brave 
warrior hast thou slain; and thou hast earned the 
enmity of powerful foes : neither is there yet an end of 
it. For the day will come I see it even now a day 
of direful overthrow and slaughter,* when few, alas! of 
the Fena mil be left to tell the tale. Then thou shalt 
sorely need my help, O Finn, and sorely shalt thou 
rue this day. I grieve not, indeed, for thee, but for my 

* A prophetic allusion to the battle of Gavra. (See note 28 at 
the end.) 


dear, faithful companions for Oscar and Mac Luga 
and Dering, and more than all for Oisin, who shall long 
outlive the others in sad old age.* Alas ! how deadly 
shall be their strait when I am not near to aid 

Then Oscar, moved with pity even to tears, 
addressing Finn, said, " Although I am nearer akin to 
thee, king, than to Dermat, yet I cannot suffer that 
he die, when a drink from thy hands would heal him. 
Bring him, then, a drink without delay." 

And Finn answered, " I know of no well on this 
mountain from which to bring drink." 

" Therein thou speakest not truth," said Dermat; 
" for thou knowest that not more than nine paces from 
thee, hidden under yonder bush, is a well of crystal 

Thereupon Finn went to the well, and, holding his 
two hands tightly together, he brought up some of the 
water, and came towards Dermat; but after he had 
walked a little way, he let it spill through his fingers, 
saying that he was not able to bring water in his 
hands so far. 

" Not so, Finn," said Dermat. " I saw thee that of 
thy own will thou didst let it spill. And now, O king, 
hasten, for death is on me." 

Again he went to the well, and was bringing the 
water slowly, while Dermat followed the dripping 
hands with his eyes; but when Finn thought oi 

* A prophetic allusion to the events related in the story of " Oisin 
IE Tirnanoge," page 385. 


Grania he let the water spill a second time. And 
Dermat, seeing this, uttered a piteous sigh of anguish. 

And now was Oscar no longer able to contain his 
grief and rage ; and he said, " I swear, O king, if thou 
dost not bring the water, that only one of us two 
thou or I shall leave this hill alive ! " 

Hearing Oscar's words, and seeing the frowning 
looks of the others, Finn dipped up the water a third 
time, and was hastening forward ; but before he had 
got half-way, Dermat's head dropped backwards, and 
his life departed. 

And all the Fena present raised three long loud 
cries of sorrow for Dermat O'Dyna. 

Then Oscar, looking fiercely on Finn, spoke and 
said, " Would that thou thyself lay dead here instead of 
Dermat ! For now indeed the noblest heart of the Fena 
is still ; and our mainstay in battle and danger is gone. 
Ah ! why did I not foresee this ? Why was I not told 
that Dermat's life was linked with the life of the wild 
boar of Ben-Gulban ? Then would I have stayed this 
chase, and put off the evil day ! " 

And Oscar wept ; and Oisin, and Dering, and Mac 
Luga wept also, for Dermat was much loved by all. 

After a time, Finn said, "Let us now leave this 
hill, lest Angus of the Bruga overtake us. For 
although we had no hand in Dermat's death, never- 
theless he may not believe us." 

So Finn and the Fena departed from the hill, Finn 
leading Dermat's dog, Mac-an-coill. But Oisin, and 
Oscar, and Dering, and Mac Luga turned back, and 


with tears, threw their mantles over Dermat; after 
which they followed the others. 

Grania sat that day on the highest rampart of 
Rath-Grania, watching for Defmat's return ; for a dark 
fear haunted her mind on account of this chase. And 
when at last the Fena came in view, she saw Dermat's 
dog led by Finn ; but not seeing Dermat himself, she 

"Ah me ! what is this I see ? Surely if Dermat 
were alive, it is not by Finn that Mac-an-coill would 
be led to his home ! " 

And as she spoke she fell forward off the rampart, 
and lay long in a swoon as if her spirit had fled, 
while her handmaid stood over her, weeping and dis- 
tracted. And when at last she opened her eyes, then 
indeed they told her that Dermat was dead ; and she 
uttered a long and piteous cry, so that her women and 
all the people of the court came round her to ask the 
cause of her sorrow. And when they were told that 
Dermat had perished by the wild boar of Ben-Gulban, 
they raised three loud, bitter cries of lamentation, 
which were heard in the glens and wildernesses 
around, and which pierced the clouds of heaven. 

When at length Grania became calm, she ordered 
that five hundred of her people should go to Ben-Gulban, 
to bring home the body of Dermat. Then, turning to 
Finn, who still held Mac-an-coill in his hand, she 
asked him to leave her Dermat's hound ; but Finn 
refused, saying that a hound was a small matter, and 
that he might be allowed to inherit at least so much 


of Dermat's riches. When Oisin heard this, he came 
forward and took the hound from the hand of Finn 
and gave him to Grania. 

At the time that the men left Rath-Grania to go 
for the body of Dermat, it was revealed to Angus that 
the hero was lying dead on Ben-Gulban. And he set 
out straightway, and travelling on the pure, cool wind, 
soon reached the mountain ; so that when Grama's 
people came up, they found him standing over the 
body, sorrowing, with his people behind him. And 
they held forward the wrong sides of their shields in 
token of peace. 

Then both companies, having viewed the dead 
hero, raised three mighty cries of sorrow, so loud and 
piercing that they were heard in the wastes of the 
firmament, and over the five provinces of Erin. 

And when they had ceased, Angus spoke and said, 
" Alas ! why did I abandon thee, even for once, O my 
son ? For from the day I took thee to Bruga, a 
tender child, I have watched over thee and guarded 
thee from thy foes, until last night. Ah ! why did I 
abandon thee to be decoyed to thy doom by the guile- 
ful craft of Finn ? By my neglect hast thou suffered, 
Dermat ; and now, indeed, I shall for ever feel the 
bitter pangs of sorrow ! " 

Then Angus asked Grania's people what they had 
come for. And when they told him that Grania had 
sent them to bring the body of Dermat to Rath- 
Grania, he said 

"I will bring the body of Dermat with me to 


Bruga of the Boyne ; and I will keep him on his bier, 
where he shall be preserved by my power, as if he 
lived. And though I cannot, indeed, restore him to 
life, yet I will breathe a spirit into him, so that for 
a little while each day he shall talk with me." 

Then he caused the body to be placed on a golden 
bier, with the hero's javelins fixed one on each side, 
points upwards. And his people raised the bier and 
carried it before him ; and in this manner they 
marched slowly to Bruga of the Boyne. 

Grania's people then returned ; and when they had 
told her the whole matter, though she was grieved at 
first, yet in the end she was content, knowing how 
Angus loved Dermat. 



CULAND, the smith of the Dedannans, 1 who lived at 
Slieve Cullinn,f had two beautiful daughters, Milucra 
and Aina. They both loved Finn, 23 and each sought 
him for her husband. 

As they walked together one evening near Allen.J 
they fell to talking of many things; and their con- 
versation turning at last on their future husbands, 
Aina said she would never marry a man with grey 

When Milucra heard this, she resolved with herself 
that if she could not get Finn, she would plan so that 
he should not marry her sister Aina. So she departed 
immediately, and, turning her steps northwards, she 
summoned the Dedannans to meet her at Slieve 

* It is necessary to remind the reader that this story and the two 
following are related by Oisin, in his old age, to St. Patrick. (See 
the prefatory note to the story of " Oisin in Tirnanoge," p. 385 ; and 
see also note 23 at the end.) 

f Now Slieve Gullion, a lofty, isolated mountain in the sonth of 
the county Armagh, celebrated in legendary lore. 

% The Hill of Allen, in Kildare, where Finn had his palace. (See 
note 23 at the end.) 


Cullinn. Having brought them all together, she 
caused them to make her a lake* near the top of 
the mountain ; and she breathed a druidical virtue on 
its waters, that all who bathed in it should become 

On a morning not long after this, Finn happened 
to be walking alone on the lawn before the palace 
of Allen, when a doe sprang out from a thicket, and, 
passing quite close to him, bounded past like the 
wind. Without a moment's delay, he signalled for his 
companions and dogs ; but none heard except his two 
hounds, Bran and Skolan. He instantly gave chase, 
with no other arms than his sword, Mac-an-Lona, and 
accompanied only by his two dogs; and before the 
Fena 23 knew of his absence, he had left Allen of the 
green slopes far behind. 

The chase turned northwards; and though the 
hounds kept close to the doe, the chief kept quite 
as close to the hounds the whole way. And so they 
continued without rest or pause, till they reached 
Slieve Cullinn, far in the north. 

Here the doe made a sudden turn and disappeared ; 

* The little lake for which this legendary origin is assigned lies 
near the top of Slieve Gnllion. There were several wells in Ireland 
which, according to the belief of old times, had the property of turn- 
ing the hair grey. Giraldns Cambrensis tells us of such a well in 
Monster ; and he states that he once saw a man who had washed a 
part of his head in this well, and that the part washed was white, 
while the rest was black! 

It is to be observed that the peasantry of the district retain 
to this day a lingering belief in the power of the lake of Slieve 
Gullion to turn the hair grey. 


and what direction she took, whether east or west, 
Finn knew not, for he never caught sight of her after. 
And he marvelled much that any doe in the world 
should be able to lead Bran and Skolan so long a 
chase, and escape from them in the end. Meantime 
they kept searching, Finn taking one side of the hill 
and the dogs another, so that he was at last left quite 

While he was wandering about the hill and 
whistling for his hounds, he heard the plaintive cry 
of a woman at no great distance ; and, turning his 
steps towards the place, he saw a lady sitting on the 
brink of a little lake, weeping as if her heart would 
break. Never before did the chieftain see a maiden 
so lovely. The rose colour on her cheeks was 
heightened by her grief; her lips were like ruddy 
quicken berries ; the delicate blossom of the apple 
tree was not more white than her neck ; her hair fell 
in heavy golden ringlets on her shoulders ; and as she 
looked up at the chief, her eyes beamed like stars on 
a frosty night. 

Finn accosted her ; and, seeing that she ceased her 
weeping for a moment, he asked her had she seen 
his two hounds pass that way. 

" I have not seen thy hounds," she replied, " nor 
have I been at all concerned in the chase ; for, alas, 
there is something that troubles me more nearly, a 
misadventure that has caused me great sorrow i " 

And as she spoke these words, she burst out 
weeping and sobbing more bitterly than before. 


Finn was greatly moved at this, so much so, that 
he quite forgot all about his hounds and his own 
troubles ; and he asked her 

"What is the cause of this great grief, gentle 
lady ? Has death robbed you of your husband or 
your child, or what other evil has befallen you ? I am 
much concerned to see a lady in such distress; and 
I wish you to tell me if anything can be done to 
lighten your sorrow, or to remove the cause of it ? " 

She replied, "I had a precious gold ring on my 
finger, which I prized beyond anything in the world ; 
and it has fallen from me into the water. I saw it 
roll down the steep slope at the bottom, till it went 
quite out of my sight. This is the cause of my sorrow, 
and thou canst remedy the mishap if thou wilt. The 
Fena are sworn never to refuse help to a woman in 
distress ; and I now put on thee those gesa u that true 
heroes dare not break through, to search for the ring, 
and cease not till thou find it and restore it to me." 

Though the chief had indeed at the moment no 
inclination to swim, he could not refuse a prayer urged 
in this manner. So he plunged in without a moment's 
hesitation, and examined the lake on all sides, diving 
and searching into every nook and cranny at the 

After swimming in this manner three times round 
and round the lake, he found the ring at last; and 
approaching the lady, he handed it to her from the 
watei. The moment she had got it she sprang into 
the lake before his eyes, and, diving down, disappeared 
in an instant. 


The chief, wondering greatly at this strange be- 
haviour, stepped forth from the water ; but as soon as 
his feet had touched the dry land, he lost all his 
strength, and fell on the brink, a withered, grey old man, 
shrunken up and trembling all over with weakness 
He sat him down in woful plight; and soon his 
hounds came up. They looked at him wistfully and 
sniffed and whined around him ; but they knew him 
not, and, passing on, they ran round the lake, searching 
in vain for their master. 

On that day the Fena were assembled in the 
banquet hall of the palace of Allen ; some feasting and 
drinking, some playing chess, and others listening to 
the sweet music of the harpers. While all were in this 
wise pleasantly engaged, Kylta Mac Ronan 23 stood 
up in the midst, and said in the hearing of all 

" I have observed, friends, that our master and king 
Finn the son of Cumal, has not been amongst us to- 
day, as is his wont; and I wish to know whither he 
has gone." 

This speech caused a sudden alarm amongst us ; 
for no one knew aught of the chief, or was aware till 
that moment that he was absent at all ; and we knew 
not wherefore he had disappeared or whither he had 
gone. In the midst of our anxious tumult, the 
envious and foul-mouthed Conan Mail m stood up, and 

"I have never heard sweeter music than your 
words, Kylta ! The Fena are now about to seek for 
their king ; and my only wish is that their quest may 


last for a whole year, and that it may prove a vain 
search in the end ! Be not cast down, however, O 
Fena ; if you should fail to find the son of Cumal, you 
will not be so ill off as you think ; for I will under- 
take to be your king from this time forth ! " 

Though we were at the time more inclined to be 
sad than mirthful, being weighed down with much 
anxiety, we could not help laughing when we heard 
the loud, foolish talk of Conan Mail; but we took 
no further notice of him. 

Inquiring now from the lesser people about the 
palace, we found that the chief and his two dogs had 
followed a doe northwards. So, having mustered 
a strong party of the Fena, we started in pursuit. 
Kylta and I took the lead, the rest keeping close 
behind; and in this order we followed the track, 
never taking rest or slackening speed till we reached 
Slieve Cullinn. 

We began to search round the hill, hoping to find 
either the chief himself or some person who might 
give us tidings of him. After wandering among 
brakes and rough, rocky places, we at last espied a 
^rey-headed old man sitting on the brink of a lake. 
I went up to him to ask a question, followed by the 
rest of the Fena. At first I thought he might be a 
fisherman who had come up from the plains to fish ; 
but when we came near him, he seemed so wretched 
an old creature, all shrivelled up, with the skin 
hanging in wrinkles over the bare points of his bones, 
that I felt quite sure he was not a fisherman, and that 


he was reduced to that state more by sickness and 
want than by old age. 

I asked the poor old man if he had seen a 
noble-looking hero pass that way, with two hounds, 
chasing a doe. He never answered a word, neithei 
did he stir from where he sat, or even look up ; but at 
the question, his head sank on his breast, and his 
limbs shook all over as with palsy. Then he fell into 
a sudden fit of grief, wringing his hands and uttering 
feeble cries of woe. 

We soothed him and used him gently for a time, 
hoping he might speak at last ; but to no purpose, for 
he still kept silent. Then at last growing impatient, 
and thinking that this might be a mere headstrong 
humour, we drew our swords, and threatened him 
with instant death if he did not at once tell us all he 
knew of the chief and his hounds for we felt sure he 
had seen them. But he only lamented the more, and 
still answered nothing. 

At last, after this had gone on for some time, and 
when we were about to leave him, he beckoned to 
Kylta Mac Ronan ; and when Kylta had come near, 
the old man whispered into his ear the dreadful secret. 
And then we all came to know the truth. When we 
found that the withered old man was no other than 
our beloved king, Finn, himself, we uttered three 
shouts of lamentation and anger, so loud and pro- 
longed that the foxes and badgers rushed affrighted 
from their dens in the hollows of the mountain. 

Conan now stepped forward, looking very fierce; 


and, unsheathing his sword with mighty bluster, he 
began in a loud voice to revile Finn and the Fena 
with the foulest language he could think of. And he 
ended by saying that he meant to slay the king that 

"Now, Finn Mac Cumal, I will certainly strike 
off your head ; for you are the man that never gave me 
credit for valour, or praised my noble deeds in battle. 
Ever since your father, Cumal of the Hosts, was slain 
on the field of Knocka * by the Clann Morna w of the 
Golden Shields, you have been our bitter foe ; and it is 
against your will that any of us are now alive. I am 
very glad to see you, Finn Mac Cumal, brought down 
to what you no\* are ; and I only wish that the rest of 
the Clann Baskin M were like you. Then should I 
very soon make short work of them all ; and joyful to 
me would be the task of raising a great earn to their 
memory ! " 

To which Oscar replied with great scorn, "It is 
not worth while drawing a sword to punish thee, 
Conan Mail, vain and foolish boaster as thou art ; and 
besides, we have at present something else to think of. 
But if it were not for the trouble that now lies heavy 
on us on account of our king, I would of a certainty 
chastise thee by breaking all the bones of thy mouth 
with my fist ! " 

" Cease, Oscar," returned Conan, in a voice still 
louder than before ; " cease your foolish talk ! It is 
actions and not words that prove a man ; and as to 

* Knocka, now Cast'eknock, near Dublin. (See note 27 at the 


the noble warlike deeds done in past times by the 
Fena, it was by the Clann Morna they were performed, 
and not by the chicken-hearted Clann Baskin ! " 

The fiery Oscar could bear this no longer. He 
rushed towards Conan Mail; but Conan, terrified at 
his vengeful look, ran in amongst the Fena with great 
outcry, beseeching them to save him from the rage of 
Oscar. We straightway confronted the young hero, 
and checked him in his headlong career; and after 
much ado, we soothed his anger and made peace be 
tween him and Conan. 

When quietness was restored, Kylta asked Finn 
how this dread evil had befallen him, who was the 
enchanter, and whether there was any hope of re- 
storing him to his own shape. Finn told him that it 
was the daughter of Culand the smith who had trans- 
formed him by her spells. And then he recounted 
how she had lured him to swim in the lake, and how, 
when he came forth, he was turned into a withered 
old man. 

We now made a framework litter of slender poles, 
and, placing our king on it, we lifted him tenderly 
on our shoulders. And, turning from the lake, we 
marched slowly up-hill till we came to the fairy palace 
of Slieve Cullinn, where we knew the daughter of 
Culand had her dwelling deep under ground. 19 Here 
we set him down, and the whole troop began at once 
to dig, determined to find the enchantress in her cave- 
palace, and to take vengeance on her if she did not 
restore our chief. 


For three days and three nights we dug, without a 
moment's rest or pause, till at length we reached her 
hollow dwelling ; when she, affrighted at the tumult 
and at the vengeful look of the heroes, suddenly 
started forth from the cave and stood before us. She 
held in her hand a drinking-horn of red gold, which 
was meant for the king. Yet she appeared unwilling, 
and held it back, notwithstanding the threatening 
looks of the Fena. But, happening to cast her eyes on 
the graceful and manly youth, Oscar, she was moved 
with such admiration and love for him that she wavered 
no longer, but placed the fairy drinking-horn in the 
hands of the king, No sooner had he drunk from it, 
than his own shape and features returned, save only 
that his hair remained of a silvery grey. 

When we gazed on our chief in his own graceful 
and manly form, we were all pleased with the soft, 
silvery hue of the grey hairs. And, though the en- 
chantress appeared ready to restore this also, Finn 
himself told her that it pleased him as it pleased the 
others, and that he chose to remain grey for the rest 
of his life. 

' When the king had drunk from the horn, he 
passed it to Mac Reth, who drank from it in like 
manner and gave it to Bering. Dering, after drink- 
ing, was about to hand it to the next, when it gave a 
sudden twist out of his hand, and darted into the 
loose earth at our feet, where it sank out of sight. 
We ran at once to recover it ; but, though we turned 
up the earth deeply all round, we were not able to 


find the drinking-horn. This was a disappointment 
that vexed us exceedingly, for if we had all drunk 
from it, we should have been gifted with a foreknow- 
ledge of future events. 

A growth of slender twigs grew up afterwarda 
over the spot where it sank into the ground; and this 
little thicket is still gifted with a part of the virtue of 
the golden drinking-horn. For any one who looks on 
it in the morning fasting, will know in a moment all 
things that are to happen that day. 

So ended the Chase of Slieve Cullinn ; and in this 
wise it came to pass that Finn's hair was turned in 
me day from golden yellow to silvery grey. 



FINN and tho Fena 23 went one day to hunt at Slieve 
Fuad.f When they had come very near to the top 
of the mountain, a deer suddenly bounded from a 
thicket right before them, very large and fierce, with 
a great pair of sharp, dangerous antlers. At once they 
loosed their dogs and gave chase ; and those who were 
scattered here and there about the hill gave up 
the pursuit of smaller game to join the main body 
for it was very seldom they fell in with a deer that 
promised better sport. 

She led them through rugged places, over rocks 
and bogs, and into deep glens. The hounds several 
times surrounded her ; but she fought her way with 

* This story is told by Oisin to St. Patrick. (See the prefatory 
note to the next story, " Oisin in Tirnanoge," page 385. 

f Slieve Fuad was the ancient name of the highest of the Fews 
mountains, near Newtown Hamilton, in Armagh ; but the name is 
now lost. 


so much strength and fury that she, always escaped, 
after killing many of the dogs and disabling some 
of the men. 

Soon she left Slieve Fuad behind, nor did she 
slacken speed till she reached the green hill of Lidas, 
while the hunters and dogs followed in full chase 
close behind. She then made her way across the 
open country to a rugged and bushy hill the hill of 
Carrigan;* and here they suddenly lost her among 
the rocks and thickets. They searched round the hill 
without avail, north, south, east, and west, till all, both 
men and dogs, were quite scattered; and Finn and 
Dara the Melodious were left alone. 

At length Finn's dog, Skolan, started the deer once 
more, and again the chase began. Back over the self- 
same course she ran, by the hill of Lidas, and straight 
on towards Slieve Fuad, Finn and Dara close on her 
track ; while the main body of the Fena followed far 
behind, guided by the cries of the dogs. 

When the deer reached Slieve Fuad, she again took 
cover and disappeared at the very spot where they 
had first started her ; and the two chiefs, after beating 
the thickets on every side, were at length forced to 
give up the search. 

A druidical mist now rose up, darkening the air, 
and enfolding them on every side ; so that they lost 
their way. They tried many times to regain the 
path, but to no purpose ; for they only lost themselves 

* Now probably the village of Carriaans, on the river Foyle, five 
miles south-west of Londonderry. 


more and more among the quagmires and thickets. 
At last they sat down to rest, weary and baffled ; and 
Dara played a mournful strain on his timpan; after 
which they sounded the Dord-Fian,* as a oignal to 
their friends. 

When the Fena heard the Dord-Fian sounding afai 
off, they felt sure that their leader was in trouble 
or strait of some kind ; and they started to his relief, 
making northwards straight towards the point from 
which they thought the signal came. But they had 
not gone far when they heard it sounding from the 
east, and altered their course accordingly. Again it 
changed to the west; and no sooner had they set 
forward in that direction than it seemed to come from 
the south. In this manner were they led hither and 
thither, till they became quite bewildered; and they 
found themselves no nearer to those they were in 
search of, for every time they heard the Dord-Fian, 
it seemed as far off as ever. 

Meantime Finn and Dara, after resting for a time, 
again started off, intent on trying once more to reach 
their friends ; for they heard their shouts, and knew 
they were seeking them. As they were making their 
way through the thick fog, they heard a voice at a 
little distance, as if from one in distress ; and, turning 
their steps that way, they met a young woman, very 
beautiful, and very pleasing in manner, but looking 
weary and sore perplexed, and all over in sad plight 
from the bogs and brambles. 

Dord-Fian, a sort of musical war-cry. (See note, cage 195.) 


Finn accosted her in a gentle voice, asking how 
she came to be alone in a place so wild. 

She replied, " I and my husband were journeying 
along over the plain, when we heard the melodious 
cry of hounds; and he left me to follow the chase, 
telling me to continue along the same path, and 
promising to rejoin me without delay. But this fairy 
fog has risen around me, and I have lost my way, 
so that 1 know not now in what direction to go." 

Finn then asked her name and the name of her 

"My husband's name is Lavaran, and mine is 
Glanlua. But I perceive that you are one of the 
Fena ; and indeed I think, from your arms and from 
your noble mien, that you must be the great chief 
Finn himself. If this be so, I place myself under 
your protection ; and I know well that you will lead 
me safely out of this place to my husband; ,for the 
Fena never yet refused their help to a woman in 

Finn replied, " You are quite right, lady, for I am 
Finn; and this chase that has parted you and your 
husband belongs to me. We will certainly take you 
under our protection, and we will neither abandon 
you on this mountain, nor suffer any one to harm you. 
But as to leading you to your husband, it is not at 
present in our power to do that ; for you must know, 
lady, that we also have been set astray by this magical 
fairy fog. Nevertheless, -we will do the best we can ; 
and now you had better come with us." 


So the three set forward in the direction they 
thought most likely to lead to the open plain. 

After walking for some time, they heard a low, 
sweet strain of fairy music; and they stopped to 
listen. It seemed to be near them and around them 
in the fog, so that Finn thought it came from the spot 
where the lady stood ; and she thought it came from 
Finn or Dara : and the music was followed by shouts 
and noise, as if from a great company. When the 
noise ceased, the music began again more sweetly than 
before ; so that they felt heavy, and as if inclined to 
sleep. Still more drowsy and powerless they became 
as they listened ; and at last they all three sank on 
the ground, in a trance deep and deathlike. 

After a time they awoke, and slowly regained their 
senses ; though they were so weak that they could 
scarcely move. The fog had cleared away, leaving 
the air bright and warm ; and when they were able to 
look around, they found themselves tm the margin of a 
blue lake. The part of the lake that lay in front 
of them was narrow, and quite calm and smooth ; but 
on each side, to the right and left, it opened out into 
two broad, green-bordered seas, with great waves 
tumbling wildly about, as if the waters were torn up 
by whirlwinds. But where they sat, not a breath was 
blowing. And looking across the narrow part, they 
saw a stately palace right before them on the opposite 

As they were gazing at all these strange things, 
silent and much astonished, they saw a warrior coming 


forth from the palace, in size like a giant, rough and 
fierce-looking, with a beautiful woman by his side. 
The two walked quickly down to the shore, and, 
plunging in, they swam straight across the middle 
of the lake. And Dara and Glanlua, turning to Finn, 

" Of a surety, it is not for our good yondei 
strangers are approaching ; but to work us treachery 
and mischief!" 

This forecast turned out to be true. The large 
warrior and the beautiful lady had no sooner gained 
the land than they came up to Finn and his two 
companions ; and without speaking a word, the giant 
seized them roughly, and led them down to the shore 
of the lake. For the two heroes were still so weak 
from the spell of the fairy music that they were not 
able to raise a hand to defend either the lady or them- 

The giant and his companion, making no delay, 
plunged in, and swam back towards the palace, 
bringing the three with them ; and as soon as they 
had reached the shore, the strange warrior, addressing 
Finn in a fierce and surly manner, said 

"For a long time have I sought Finn Mac Cumal, 
the evil-minded and crafty; and now, Finn, now 
that thou hast been by a well-laid plan cast under 
my power, I will take good care that thou shalt not 
escape till I take revenge, even to the full, for all 
the injuries thou hast done to me and to my sister!" 

Finn listened to this speech with much surprise, 


for he could not call to mind that he had ever seen the 
hero before ; and he said 

" Tell me, I pray thee, who thou art ; for I know 
thee not ; neither do I know of any injury thou hast 
suffered at my hands. Thou art, indeed, large of body, 
and fierce and boastful in speech ; but know that 
to take revenge on a foe who is unable to defend 
himself, is a deed quite unbecoming a hero ! A 

The large man replied, " Do you not remember the 
treachery you practised on Mergah of the Sharp 
Spears, and on my sons, two fair youths, whom you 
slew by unfair means, at the battle of Knockanare ? * 
Well indeed do I know thee, Finn, for I am Dryantore, 
and this is Ailna my sister, the wife of Mergah. She 
is left without her husband, and I without my sons, 
by your cruel wiles; for it was by fraud and foul 
play, and not by fair fighting, that you gained the 
battle of Knockanare, and slew Mergah and his host ! " 

" I remember well," said Finn, " that they all fell 
on the battle-field; but it was not by craft or 
treachery. Mergah of the Sharp Spears came with 
a mighty host to conquer Erin, and lay it under 
tribute. But they were met at Knockanare, and every 
man of them slain in fair, open fight, though not 
without sore loss to the Fena." 

* Knockanare (the hill of slaughter), where a great battle was 
fought between the Fena under Finn, and the foreigners under 
Mergah of the Sharp Spears, in which Mergah was defeated and 
slain. This battle forms the subject of a poetical romance. It may 
be as well to observe that this hill is not Knookanore in Kerry, near 
the mouth of the Shannon, as some say. 


"You may say what you please on the matter," 
said Dryantore ; " but it is quite enough for me that 
you have slain Ailna's husband and my two sons. 
And now, indeed, I shall take revenge of that be 
sure both on you and on all the Fena that come 
within my reach." 

And having so spoken, he began without more 
ado to bind Finn, Dara, and Glanlua in strong fetters ; 
and having done so, he threw them into a dungeon, 
where he left them without food or drink or comfort 
of any kind. 

Meantime the Fena ceased not to search for their 
king. They knew, by the sad strain they had heard 
in the distance, and by the strange manner in which 
the music had shifted from place to place, that he was , 
caught under some druidic spell ; and they vowed they 
would never rest till they had found him and punished 
the enchanter, whoever he might be. 

Next day, Ailna visited the dungeon; and Finn 
addressed her 

" Hast thou forgotten, Ailna, that when thou didst 
come to Erin after the death of thy husband, Mergah 
of the Sharp Spears, the Fena received thee hospitably, 
and, pitying thy distress, treated thee with much 
kindness ? But for this thou hast indeed given us an 
ungrateful and unbecoming return ; for thou hast shut 
us up in this dungeon, without food or drink, having, 
by guileful druidical spells, taken away our strength." 

"I remember very well," said Ailna, "that you 
treated me kindly. But you killed my husband ; and 



I am well pleased that it has now come to my turn 
to avenge his death. I do not feel the least pity 
for you ; and I only wish that the whole of the Fen a 
were with you in that dungeon, to be dealt with by 
my brother." 

Then, casting her eyes on Glanlua, she began to 
upbraid her in bitter words for having been in the 
company of Finn and Dara. But Glanlua explained 
the matter, saying that she had never seen either 
of the chiefs before, and that it was only by chance 
she had fallen on them when she had lost her way 
in the fog." 

" If that be so," said Ailna, "it is not just that you 
should be punished for the evil deeds of the others." 

And she went and told Dryantore, who came forth- 
with to release the lady. 

Glanlua took leave of Finn and Dara, and left the 
prison, grieving much for their evil plight ; for she 
was grateful for their kindness on the mountain. 
Ailna led her to the palace ; and, having placed food 
before her, bade her eat. But Glanlua, being overcome 
by weakness, suddenly fell into a swoon, and re- 
mained for a long time without sense or motion, like 
one dead. When at last she opened her eyes, she saw 
Ailna standing near, holding in her hand a golden 
drinking-horn. And Ailna gave her to drink, and 
immediately the spells lost their power; and she 
regained her strength; and the bloom and beauty of 
her countenance returned. 

But now she bethought her of the two heroes ; 



and, remembering their dismal plight in the dungeon, 
she became sorrowful, and began to sigh and weep. 
And when Ailna and Dryantore came to know the 
cause of her tears, they told her with much severity 
that Finn and Dara deserved their punishment ; and 
that both should stay in prison till the time had come 
to put them to death. 

" I seek not to release them from prison or to save 
them from death," said Glanlua; "but that they are 
left without food and drink this it is that moves me 
to pity." 

And Dryantore said, " If only that has caused your 
tears, you may, if you so please, bring them food. 
Besides, I do not mean to put them to death imme- 
. diately. I shall let them live yet awhile, that I may 
decoy by them the other Fena, who are now wandering 
hither and thither in quest of their chief. And it is 
my firm belief that in a little time I shall have them 
all in that dungeon." 

So Glanlua went to the prison, bringing food and 
drink, and Ailna went with her. They found the 
heroes sitting on the floor, sorrowing, their strength 
and activity all gone; for the music-spell still held 
them, and they suffered also from want of food. And 
when they saw the two ladies, they shed bitter tears. 
Glanlua, on her part, wept with pity when she looked 
on the wasted face of the chief. But not so Ailna ; 
she was pleased at their distress, for her heart was 
hardened with vengeance, and she longed for the time 
when they should suffer death. Howbeit, Glanlua 


placed food and drink before them, and they ate and 
drank and were strengthened for the time. 

When the two ladies returned, Dryantore asked 
Glanlua if it were true what he had heard, that Dara 
was a favourite among the Fena ; and why it was that 
they loved him so. 

Glanlua replied, " I only know that he is a very 
skilful musician; for I never heard melody sweetei 
than the strains he played yesterday, when I met 
himself and Finn in the fog." 

" I should like very much to hear this music," said 
Dryantore, " if it be so melodious as you say ; " and as 
he spoke these words he went towards the dungeon. 

And when he had come to the door, he said to 
Dara, in a loud, harsh, surly voice 

" I have heard that you are a skilful musician, and 
can play very sweet strains. I wish you to play for 
me now that I may know if this be true." 

To which Dara replied, " If I had the Fena around 
me, I could delight them with the melody of my 
timpan ; but as for you, guileful and cruel as you are, 
I do not believe that you can take any pleasure in 
music. Moreover, how can you expect that I should 
play sweet music for you, seeing that I am shut up 
here in this dismal dungeon, and that all manly 
strength and cheerfulness of mind have left me 
through your foul spells ? " 

"I will take off the spells if only you play for 
me," said Dryantore ; " and if your strains be as de- 
lightful as I have heard reported, I will bring you 


forth from your prison, and I will keep you for ever 
in my castle, and you shall play for me whensoever I 
wish for music." 

" I shall never consent to be released, neither will 
I play any music for you, so long as my chief lies in 
bondage and under enchantment," said Dara; "for .1 
grieve not indeed for myself, but for him." 

Dryantore replied, " I will lift the spells from both 
of you for a time ; but as to releasing Finn, that is a 
matter I do not wish to talk of now." 

Whereupon Dryantore removed the spells, and the 
heroes regained their strength and courage. 

Dara then played a low, sweet tune ; and Dryan- 
tore, who had never before heard such music, listened 
with delight and wonder. He was so charmed that 
he called Ailna and Glanlua, that they also might 
hear ; and they were as much delighted as the giant. 
But what pleased Glanlua most was to see the heroes 
restored to their wonted cheerfulness. 

Now all this time the Fena were seeking among 
the glens and hollows of the mountain for Finn and 
Dara. After walking for some time over a stony 
and rugged way, a faint strain of music struck on 
their ears. They stopped to listen, breathless ; and 
every man knew the sound of Dara's timpan ; and 
they raised a shout of gladness, which reached Finn 
and Dara in their dungeon. At the same moment 
they came in view of the palace, and they drew their 
swords and put their shields and spears in readiness, 
as men do going to battle. And they went forward 


warily, for they feared foul play, and their hearts had 
a forecast that a foe was near. But, indeed, they little 
deemed what manner of foe they should meet. 

When Dryantore heard the shouts, he hid himself 
from the view of the Fena, and forthwith betook him 
to his magic arts. And again the spell fell on the two 
heroes, and their strength departed ; and Dara's hand, 
losing its cunning, trembled on the strings, so that his 
music became dull and broken. 

And when Dara's music ceased, the Fena heard 
a low, hoarse murmur, which, growing each moment 
louder, sounded at last like the hollow roar of waves. 
And anon their strength and their swiftness left 
them, and they fell to the ground every man, in a 
deep trance as if they slept the sleep of death. 

Then Dryantore and Ailna came forth, and having 
bound them one by one in strong, hard fetters, they 
roused them up and led them helpless and faltering to 
the dungeon, where they shut them in with Finn and 

The Fena looked sadly on their king ; and he, on 
his part, shed bitters tears to think that he had 
decoyed them though, indeed, he had done so 
unwittingly into the hands of their foe. 

In the midst of their sighs and tears they heard 
the loud voice of the giant, who, looking in on them 
from the open door, addressed them 

" Now at last, ye Fena, you are in my safe keeping. 
Truly you have done great deeds in your time, but 
yet, methinks, you will not be able to escape from this 


prison till I have taken just vengeance on you for 
slaying Mergah of the Sharp Spears, and my two 
sons, at the battle of Knockanare ! " 

And having so spoken, he shut the door and went 
his way. 

When he came to the palace, he found that Glan- 
lua's husband, Lavaran, had been there. Upon which 
he fell into a mighty rage ; for he feared to let any 
man know the secrets of the palace ; and he fe*ared also 
that Lavaran might try to aid Finn and the others. 
He inquired of the two ladies whither he had gone ; 
but they replied they did not know. He then began 
to search through the rooms, and, raising his voice, he 
called aloud for Lavaran ; and the Fena, even in their 
dungeon, heard the roar quite plainly. 

Lavaran, hearing him, was sore afraid, and an- 
swered from a remote part of the palace. And as he 
came forward, the giant placed him under his spells, 
and, having bound him, flung him into the dungeon 
with the others. 

Dryantore's fury had not in the least abated ; and, 
entering the dungeon, he struck off the heads of 
several of the Fena with his great sword, saying he 
would visit them each day, and do in like manner till 
he had killed them all. 

During this time the Fena were unable to defend 
themselves ; for, besides that their strength had gone 
out from their limbs on account of the spells, they 
found that from the time the enchanter entered the 
prison, they were all fixed firmly in their places, every 


man cleaving to the ground, in whatsoever position he 
chanced to be, sitting, lying, or standing. And Finn 
shed tears even tears of blood in sight of all seeing 
his men fall one by one, while he had to look on with- 
out power to help them. 

After Dryantore had in this manner slain several, 
he approached Conan Mail, 23 with intent to end that 
day's work by cutting off his head ; and as it chanced, 
Conan was lying full length on the floor. Now Conan, 
though he was large-boned and strong, and very boast- 
ful in his speech, was a coward at heart, and more 
afraid of wounds and death than any man that ever 

So when he saw Dryantore coming towards him 
with his sword in his hand all dripping, he shouted 

" Hold thy hand, Dryantore ! Hold thy hand for a 
little while, and be not guilty of such treachery ! " 

But the giant, not heeding in the least Conan's 
words, raised his sword with his two hands and rose 
on tiptoe for a mighty blow. Then Conan, terrified 
beyond measure, put forth all his strength to free 
himself, and bounded from the floor clear outside the 
range of the sword ; but left behind him, clinging to 
the floor, all the skin of his back, even from the points 
of his shoulders to the calves of his legs. 

When he saw the giant still making towards him 
in a greater rage than ever for missing his blow, he 
again cried aloud 

" Hold your hand this time, Dryantore ! Is it not 


enough that you see me in this woful plight ? For 
it is plain that I cannot escape death. Leave me, 
then, to die of my wounds, and slay me not thus 
suddenly ! " 

Dryantore held his hand ; but he told Conan that 
he would for a certainty kill him next time he came, 
if he did not find him already dead of his wounds. 
Then he stalked out of the dungeon, and, shutting 
close the door, left the Fena in gloom and sadness. 

Though Lavaran had been only a little while in 
the palace, he made good use of his time, and now 
approaching Finn, he whispered in his ear 

"There is that in yonder palace which would 
free us from those accursed spells if we only could 
get at it." 

And when Finn asked what it was, he replied, 
"A magical golden drinking-horn of wondrous virtue. 
I saw it in the palace among many other precious 

And when Finn again questioned him how he 
knew of its secret power, he said 

" Glanlua, my wife, told me. For she said that, 
being herself at the point of death, Ailna fetched this 
drinking-horn and bade her drink. And when she 
had drunk, she was immediately freed from spells and 
sickness. She told me, moreover, that it would remove 
the spell from the Fena, and bring back their strength 
and heal their wounds, if they could get to drink 
from it." 

Conan, being near, overheard this conversation; 


and he inwardly resolved that he would try to secure 
the drinking-horn, if perchance he might be able to 
heal his wounds by means of it. 

Not long after, the giant again came to the prison, 
sword in hand, and addressed Conan in these words 
"Come forward now, big, bald man, for 1 am 
about to fulfil my promise to you ! Come forward, 
that I may strike off your large head ; for 1 see that 
your wounds have not killed you ! " 

But Conan, instead of coming forward, fell back 
even to the farthest part of the dungeon, and replied 
" You must know, Dryantore, that I, of all men 
alive, am the most unwilling to die any death un- 
worthy of a brave hero. You see my evil plight, all 
wounded and faint from loss of blood ; and, being as I 
am a valiant warrior, it would surely be a shameful 
thing and a foul blot on my fame, to be slain while in 
this state. I ask only one favour that you cure me 
of my wounds first. After this, you may put me to 
death in any manner that is most agreeable to you." 

To this Dryantore consented, seeing that Conan 
was secure ; and he called to Ailna and bade her fetch 
him the magical golden drinking-horn. " For I wish," 
said he, " to heal the wounds of yonder big, bald man." 
But Ailna replied, " Of what concern are his 
wounds to us ? Is it not better that he should die 
at once, and all the other Fena with him ? " 

Conan spoke out from where he stood, "Lovely 
Ailna, I seek not to escape death. I ask only to be 
healed first and slain afterwards ! " 


Ailna went to the palace and soon returned, bring- 
ing, not the drinking-horn, but a large sheepskin, 
covered all over with a long growth of wool. Dryan- 
tore took it from her, and doing as she told him, he 
fitted it on Conan's back, where it cleaved firmly, so 
that his wounds were all healed up in an instant. 

As long as Conan lived afterwards, this sheepskin 
remained on his back; and the wool grew upon it 
every year, even as wool grows on the back of a living 
sheep. And from that time forth, the other Fena were 
always mocking him and laughing at him and calling 
him nicknames. 

As soon as Conan felt his wounds healed, he again 
spoke to the giant 

" It is my opinion, Dryantore, that it would be a 
very unwise thing for you to put me to death. I see 
plainly you want a servant. Now, although I am 
large of bone and strong of body, and very brave 
withal, still I am very harmless. And if you let me 
live, I shall be your servant for ever, and you will find 
me very useful to you." 

The giant saw the force and wisdom of Conan's 
words; and he felt that he wanted a servant very 
much, though he never perceived it till that moment, 
when Conan reminded him of it. 

So he said, "I believe, indeed, Conan, that your 
words are truth. Wherefore, I will not put you to 
death. You are now my servant, and so shall you be 
for the rest of your life." 

He then led Conan forth from the dungeon towards 


the palace ; and he was in such good humour at having 
got a servant, that he forgot to kill any of theFena on 
that occasion. 

He called to him Ailna and Glanlua, to tell them 
of what he had done. And he said to them 

" I find that I need a servant very much. Where- 
fore, I have made Conan my servant. And I am now 
about to free him from the spell and give him back 
his strength by a drink from the golden drinking- 
horn, so that he may be able to wait on me and do my 

For Conan, though his wounds were healed, was 
still so weak from the spell that he was scarce able 
to walk. 

"I do not at all approve what you have done," 
said Ailna. " It would be, methinks, much better to 
put him straightway to death along with all the 
others. As long as he is with us as our servant, I 
shall never think myself free from danger ; for the 
Fena are treacherous all alike." 

" As for the other Fena," replied Dryantore, " you 
need not be in any trouble on their account, for their 
time is short As soon as I have got Conan free from 
the spell, I will go straight to the dungeon and kill 
them, every man. And when they are fairly put out 
of the way, it seems to me that we need not fear 
danger from this big, bald man with the sheepskin on 
his back." 

When Ailna heard that the death of the Fena was 
near at hand, she no longer gainsaid her brother. So 


Dryantore led Conan to the palace ; and placing the 
magical drinking-horn in his hand, bade him drink. 
And Conan drank ; and immediately his strength and 
his spirits returned. 

Now it so happened, while these things went on, 
that Finn asked Dara to play one of his sweet, sad 
tunes, that they might hear the music of his timpan 
before they died. And Dara took his timpan, and 
began to play ; and historians say that no one either 
before or since ever played sweeter strains. 

At the very moment that Conan had finished 
drinking, he and Dryantore heard the music sounding 
faintly in the distance ; and the giant opened the door 
and stood on the threshold to listen. He was so 
charmed that he quite forgot all about Conan and the 
drinking-horn: and finding that he could not hear 
the music plainly enough where he stood, he walked 
hastily towards the dungeon, leaving Conan behind 
with the drinking-horn in his hand. 

No sooner had he gone out than Conan hid the 
drinking-horn under his cloak, and went to the 
dungeon after him. 

And when the giant saw him he said, " Why have 
jrou followed me ; and what business have you here ? you not my servant ; and why have you come 
without being bidden by me ? " 

" I thought," replied Conan, " that you were about 
to put the Fen a to death ; and I came to look at them 
once more before they died." 

Then suddenly Dryantore bethought him of the 


drinking-horn, and he said, "Where is the golden 
drinking-horn I gave you ? " 

" I left it," said Conan, "just where I found it in 
the palace." 

The giant ran hastily towards the palace to secure 
the drinking-horn ; and no sooner was he out of sight 
than Conan, drawing forth the horn, put it to the lips 
of each to drink, beginning with Finn. Only Finn 
and Oscar had drunk, when they heard the heavy 
steps of the giant running towards the dungeon ; and 
now they saw that he was indeed inflamed with fury. 
Oscar seized his great, polished spear, and sprang to 
the door; and the others raised a mighty shout of 
joy; while Conan went on releasing the heroes one 
by one. 

When Dryantore saw Oscar, he uttered a roar of 
rage and disappointment; and then called aloud to 
Ailna to come to him. And she came forth ; and 
when she saw how matters stood, she was seized with 
such grief and terror that she dropped down and died 
immediately. Glanlua was standing near at hand, 
rejoicing at the release of her husband and friends; 
but when she saw Ailna fall to the ground dead, she 
became sad, and, stooping down, wept over her. 

All this Oscar saw from where he stood ; and it 
was with much ado he checked his tears. For though 
my son was the bravest of the heroes, and the most 
terrible in battle, he had a gentle heart, and never saw 
a woman or a child in distress without being moved 
to pity. 


But Conan felt not the least pity. On the con- 
trary, he was very glad to see Ailna dead ; and he told 
Oscar that it was very well she was out of the way, 
for that she was a vicious woman, and had wrought 
the Fena much trouble and woe. 

And now Oscar, casting his eyes again on Dryan- 
tore, hardened his heart for battle, and addressed the 
giant in these words 

" It has at last come to pass, Dryantore, that 
you are in the power of the Fena; and there is no 
escape for you, though you are a large and strong giant, 
and a druid with powerful magical spells. But the 
Fena never yet treated an enemy ungenerously. You 
indeed dealt unfairly and treacherously with us ; and 
meant to kill us all, after having taken away our 
strength and valour by your black, guileful magic. 
But even so, we give you your choice ; and we chal- 
lenge you now to single combat with any of our 
champions you may wish to choose." 

To which Dryantore replied, " It is very true that 
the Fena have prevailed over me ; and it is a just 
punishment for my folly in releasing Conan the Bald 
from my spells. I desire single combat. I will fight 
the Fena one after another, till I either fall myself 
or slay them all ; and I will begin with you ! " 

Oscar then took his shield and made ready for 
battle. Meantime the giant, harbouring great wrath 
against Conan, approached him unawares; and when 
he had come near enough, he sprang suddenly on him, 
and aimed a blow with all his might at his head. But 


Conan, springing aside, barely escaped the edge of the 
9V! ord ; and, running in great fear, called to Oscar 
with great outcry to save him from the giant. 

Then Oscar ran between; and he and the giant 
fought a long and fierce fight, while we looked on' 
with anxious hearts. The giant was furious and 
strong; but my son was active and watchful and 
fearless of heart ; and Dryantore at length fell at the 
door of his own palace, pierced through and through 
by the long, smooth spear of Oscar. 

When the Fena saw the giant fall, they raised 
three mighty shouts of joy. And Glanlua brought 
the magic m drinking-horn to Oscar, from which he 
drank, so that his wounds were healed, and his 
strength straightway returned to him. 

The Fena then went into the palace, where they 
found food in great plenty, with wine and mead in 
golden bowls and drinking-horns. And they ate and 
drank and made merry ; after which they rested that 
night on soft beds and couchea 

When they awoke in the morning, all was changed. 
The palace and the lake were gone ; and the heroes 
found themselves lying on the heathy side of Slieve 
Fuad, at the selfsame spot where they had first 
started the deer; with the morning sun shining 
brightly over their heads. 




[According to an ancient legend, Finn's son, Oisin, the hero-poet, 
survived to the time of St. Patrick, two hundred years (the 
legend makes it three hundred) after the other Fena. On a 
certain occasion, when the saint asked him how he had lived 
to such a great age, the old hero related the following story.] 

A SHORT time after the fatal battle of Gavra,f where 
so many of our heroes fell, we were hunting on a dewy 
morning near the brink of Lough Lein.J where the 
trees and hedges around us were all fragrant with 
blossoms, and the little birds sang melodious music on 
the branches. We soon roused the deer from the 
thickets, and as they bounded over the plain, our 
hounds followed after them in full cry. 

We were not long so engaged, when we saw a 
rider coming swiftly towards us from the west ; and 
we soon perceived that it was a maiden on a white 

* Tirnanoge, the Land of Youth. (See note 19 at the end.) 
t Gavra, now Garristown, in the north-west of the county Dublin. 
(For an account of this battle, see note 28 at the end.) 
J Lough Lein, the Lakes of Killarney. 



steed. We all ceased from the chase on seeing the 
lady, who reined in as she approached. And Finn and 
the Fena were greatly surprised, for they had never 
before seen so lovely a maiden. A slender golden 
diar'em encircled her head ; and she wore a brown robe 
of silk, spangled with stars of red gold, which was 
fastened in front by a golden brooch, and fell from 
her shoulders till it swept the ground. Her yellow 
hair flowed far down over her robe in bright, golden 
ringlets. Her blue eyes were as clear as the drops of 
dew on the grass; and while her small, white hand 
held the bridle and curbed her steed with a golden 
bit, she sat more gracefully than the swan on Lough 
Lein. The white steed was covered with a smooth, 
flowing mantle. He was shod with four shoes of pure 
yellow gold, and in all Erin a better or more beautiful 
steed could not be found. 

As she came slowly to the presence of Finn, he 
addressed her courteously in these words 

" Who art thou, O lovely youthful princess ? Tell 
us thy name and the name of thy country, and relate 
to us the cause of thy coming." 

She answered in a sweet and gentle voice, " Noble 
king of the Fena, I have had a long iourney this dav, 
for my country lies far off in the Western Sea. I am 
the daughter of the king of Tirnanoge, and my name 
is Niam of the Golden Hair." 

" And what is it that has caused thee to come so 
far across the sea ? Has thy husband forsaken thee; 
or what other evil has befallen thee ? " 


"My husband has not forsaken me, for I have 
never been married or betrothed to any man. But I 
love thy noble son, Oisin ; and this is what has brought 
me to Erin. It is not without reason that I have 
given him my love, and that I have undertaken this 
long journey : for I have often heard of his bravery, his 
gentleness, and the nobleness of his person. Many 
princes and high chiefs have sought me in marriage ; 
but I was quite indifferent to all men, and never con- 
sented to wed, till my heart was moved with love for 
thy gentle son, Oisin." 

When I heard these words, and when I looked on 
the lovely maiden with her glossy, golden hair, I was 
all over in love with her. I came near, and, taking 
her small hand in mine, I told her she was a mild star 
of brightness and beauty, and that I preferred her to 
all the princesses in the world for my wife. 

" Then," said she, " I place you under gesa, 12 which 
true heroes never break through, to come with me on 
my white steed to Tirnanoge, the land of never-ending 
youth. It is the most delightful and the most re- 
nowned country under the sun. There is abundance 
of gold and silver and jewels, of honey and wine ; and 
the trees bear fruit and blossoms and green leaves 
together all the year round. You will get a hundred 
swords and a hundred robes of silk and satin, a 
hundred swift steeds, and a hundred slender, keen- 
scenting hounds. You will get herds of cows without 
number, and flocks of sheep with fleeces of gold; a 
coat of mail that cannot be pierced, and a sword that 


never missed a stroke and from which no one ever 
escaped alive. There are feasting and harmless pas- 
times each day. A hundred warriors fully armed 
shall always t await you at call, and harpers shall 
delight you with their sweet music. You will wear 
the diadem of the king of Tirnanoge, which he never 
yet gave to any one under the sun, and which will 
guard you day and night, in tumult and battle and 
danger of every kind. Lapse of time shall bring 
neither decay nor death, and you .shall be for ever 
young, and gifted with unfading beauty and strength. 
All these delights you shall enjoy, and many others 
that I do not mention ; and I myself will be your wile 
if you come with me to Tirnanoge." 

I replied that she was my choice above all the 
maidens in the world, and that I would willingly 
go with her to the Land of Youth. 

When my father, Finn, and the Fena heard me say 
this, and knew that I was going from them, they 
raised three shouts of grief and lamentation. And 
Finn came up to me and took my hand in his. saying 

"Woe is me, my son, that you are going away 
from me, for I do not expect that you will ever return 
to me ! " 

The manly beauty of his countenance became quite 
dimmed with sorrow ; and though I promised to 
return after a little time, and fully believed that I 
should see him again, I could not check my tears, as 
I gently kissed my father's cheek. 


I then bade farewell to my dear companions, and 
mounted the white steed, while the lady kept her seat 
before me. She gave the signal, and the steed galloped 
swiftly and smoothly towards the west, till he reached 
the strand ; and when his gold-shod hoofs touched tha 
waves, he shook himself and neighed three times. He 
made no delay, but plunged forward at once, moving 
over the face of the sea with the speed of a cloud- 
shadow on a March day. The wind overtook the 
waves and we overtook the wind, so that we straight- 
way lost sight of land; and we saw nothing but 
billows tumbling before us and billows tumbling 
behind us. 

Other shores came into view, and we saw many 
wonderful things on our journey islands and cities, 
lime-white mansions, bright greenans* and lofty 
palaces. A hornless fawn once crossed our course, 
bounding nimbly along from the crest of one wave 
to the crest of another ; and close after, in full chase, 
a white hound with red ears. We saw also a lovely 
young maiden on a brown steed, with a golden apple 
in her hand ; and as she passed swiftly by, a young 
warrior on a white steed plunged after her, wearing a 
long, flowing mantle of yellow silk, and holding a gold- 
hilted sword in his hand. 

I knew naught of these things, and, marvelling 
much, I asked the princess what they meant; but 
she answered 

" Heed not what you see here, Oisin ; for all these 

* Greenan, a summer-house ; a house in a bright, sunny spot. 


wonders are as nothing compared with what you 
shall see in Tirnanoge." 

At last we saw at a great distance, rising over the 
waves on the very verge of the sea, a palace more 
splendid than all the others ; and, as we drew near, its 
front glittered like the morning sun. I asked the 
lady what royal house this was, and who was the 
prince that ruled over it. 

" This country is the Land of Virtues," she replied. 
" Its king is the giant, Fomor of the Blows, and its 
queen the daughter ot the king of the Land of Life. 19 
This Fomor brought the lady away by force from her 
own country, and keeps her in his palace ; but she has 
put him under gesa 12 that he cannot break through, 
never to ask her to marry him till she can find a 
champion to fight him in single combat. But she still 
remains in bondage ; for no hero has yet come hither 
who has the courage to meet the giant." 

"A blessing on you, golden-haired Niam," I re- 
plied ; " I have never heard music sweeter than your 
voice; and although I feel pity for this princess, yet 
your story is pleasant to me to hear ; for of a certainty 
I will go to the palace, and try whether I cannot kill 
this Fomor, and free the lady." 

So we came to land ; and as we drew nigh to the 
palace, the lovely young queen met us and bade us 
welcome. She led us in and placed us on chairs 
of gold; after which choice food was placed before 
us, and drinking-horns filled with mead, and golden 
goblets of sweet wine. 


When we had eaten and drunk, the mild young 
princess told us her story, while tears streamed from 
her soft, blue eyes ; and she ended by saying 

" I shall never return to my own country and to 
my father's house, so long as this great and cruel giant 
is alive ! " 

When I heard her sad words, and saw her tears 
falling, I was moved with pity; and telling her to 
cease from her grief, I gave her my hand as a pledge 
that I would meet the giant, and either slay him 
.or fall myself in her defence. 

While we were yet speaking, we saw the giant 
coming towards the palace, large of body, and ugly and 
hateful in appearance, carrying a load of deerskins on 
his back, and holding a great iron club in his hand. 
He threw down his load when he saw us, turned a 
surly look on the princess, and, without greeting us 
or showing the least mark of courtesy, he forthwith 
challenged me to battle in a loud, rough voice. 

It was not my wont to be dismayed by a call 
to battle, or to be terrified at the sight of an enemy ; 
and I went forth at once without the least fear in my 
heart. But though I had fought many battles in Erin 
against wild boars and enchanters and foreign in- 
vaders, never before did I find it so hard to preserve 
my life. We fought for three days and three nights 
without food or drink or sleep ; for the giant did not 
give me a moment for rest, and neither did I give 
him. At length, when I looked at the two princesses 
weeping in great fear, and when I called to mind my 


father's deeds in battle, the fury of my valour arose ; 
and with a sudden onset I felled the giant to the earth ; 
and instantly, before he could recover himself, I cut 
off his head. 

When the maidens saw the monster lying on the 
ground dead, they uttered three cries of joy; and they 
came to me, and led me into the palace. For I was 
indeed bruised all over, and covered with gory wounds ; 
and a sudden dizziness of brain and feebleness of body 
seized me. But the daughter of the king of the Land 
of Life applied precious balsam and healing herbs to 
my wounds ; and in a short time I was healed, and 
my cheerfulness of mind returned. 

Then I buried the giant in a deep and wide grave ; 
and I raised a great earn over him, and placed on it 
a stone with his name graved in Ogam. 

We rested that night, and at the dawn of next 
morning Niam said to me that it was time for us 
to resume our journey to Tirnanoge. So we took 
leave of the daughter of the king of the Land of Life ; 
and though her heart was joyful after her release, she 
wept at our departure, and we were not less sorry at 
parting from her. When we had mounted the white 
steed, he galloped towards the strand; and as soon 
as his hoofs touched the wave, he shook himself and 
neighed three times. We plunged forward over the 
clear, green sea with the speed of a March wind on a 
hill-side; and soon we saw nothing but billows tumbling 
before us and billows tumbling behind us. We saw 
again the fawn chased by the white hound with red 


ears ; and the maiden with the golden apple passed 
swiftly by, followed by the young warrior in yellow 
silk on his white steed. And again we passed many 
strange islands and cities and white palaces. 

The sky now darkened, so that the sun was hidden 
from our view. A storm arose, and the sea was 
lighted up with constant flashes. But though the 
wind blew from every point of the heavens, and the 
waves rose up and roared around us, the white steed 
kept his course straight on, moving as calmly and 
swiftly as before, through the foam and blinding spray, 
without being delayed or disturbed in the least, and 
without turning either to the right or to the left. 

At length the storm abated, and after a time the 
sun again shone brightly; and when I looked up, 
I saw a country near at hand, all green and full of 
flowers, with beautiful smooth plains, blue hills, and 
bright lakes and waterfalls. Not far from the shore 
stood a palace of surpassing beauty and splendour. 
It was covered all over with gold and with gems of 
every colour blue, green, crimson, and yellow ; and on 
each side were greenans shining with precious stones, 
built by artists the most skilful that could be found. 
I asked Niam the name of that delightful country, and 
she replied 

" This is my native country, Tirnanoge ; and there 
is nothing I have promised you that you will not find 
in it." 

As soon as we reached the shore, we dismounted ; 
and now we saw advancing from the palace a troop 


of noble-looking warriors, all clad in bright garments, 
who came forward to meet and welcome us. Following 
these we saw a stately glittering host, with the 
king at their head wearing a robe of bright yellow 
satin covered with gems, and a crown that sparkled 
with gold and diamonds. The queen came after, 
attended by a hundred lovely young maidens ; and as 
they advanced towards us, it seemed to me that this 
king and queen exceeded all the kings and queens of 
the world in beauty and gracefulness and majesty. 

After they had kissed their daughter, the king 
took my hand, and said aloud in the hearing of the 

"This is Oisin, the son of Finn, for whom my 
daughter, Niam, travelled over the sea to Erin. This 
is Oisin, who is to be the husband of Niam of the 
Golden Hair. We give you a hundred thousand 
welcomes, brave Oisin. You will be for ever young 
in this land. All kinds of delights and innocent plea- 
sures are awaiting you, and my daughter, the gentle, 
golden-haired Niam, shall be your wife ; for I am the 
king of Tirnanoge." 

I gave thanks to the king, and I bowed low to 
the queen; after which we went into the palace, 
where we found a banquet prepared. The feasting 
and rejoicing lasted for ten days, and on the last 
day, I was wedded to the gentle Niam of the Golden 

I lived in the Land of Youth more than three 
hundred years ; but it appeared to me that only three 


years had passed since the day I parted from my 
friends. At the end of that time, I began to have a 
longing desire to see my father, Finn, and all my old 
companions, and I asked leave of Niam and of the 
king to visit Erin. The king gave permission, and 
Niam said 

"I will give consent, though I feel sorrow in 
my heart, for I fear much you will never return to 
me. ;> 

I replied that I would surely return, and that she 
need not feel any doubt or dread, for that the white 
steed knew the way, and would bring me back in 
safety. Then she addressed me in these words, which 
seemed very strange to me 

"I will not refuse this request, though your 
journey afflicts me with great grief and fear. Erin 
is not now as it was when you left it. The great 
king Finn and his Feua are all gone ; and you will 
find, instead of them, a holy father and hosts of priests 
and saints. Now, think well on what I say to you, 
and keep my words in your mind. If once you 
alight from the white steed, you will never come back 
to me. Again I warn you, if you place your feet on 
the green sod in Erin, you will never return to this 
lovely land. A third time, O Oisin, my beloved 
husband, a third time I say to you, if you alight from 
the white steed, you will never see me again." 

I promised that I would faithfully attend to her 
words, and that I would not alight from the white 
steed. Then, as I looked into her gentle face and 


marked her grief, my heart was weighed down with 
sadness, and my tears flowed plentifully ; but even 
so, my mind was bent on coming back to Erin. 

When I had mounted the white steed, he galloped 
straight towards the shore. We moved as swiftly as 
before over the clear sea. The wind overtook the 
waves and we overtook the wind, so that we straight- 
way left the Land of Youth behind ; and we passed 
by many islands and cities, till at length we landed 
on the green shores of Erin. 

As I travelled on through the country, I looked 
closely around me; but I scarcely knew the old 
places, for everything seemed strangely altered. I saw 
no sign of Finn and his host, and I began to dread 
that Niam's saying was coming true. At length, I 
espied at a distance a company of little men and 
women,* all mounted on horses as small as themselves ; 
and when I came near, they greeted me kindly and 
courteously. They looked at me with wonder and 
curiosity, and they marvelled much at my great size, 
and at the beauty and majesty of my person. 

I asked them about Finn and the Fena ; whether 
they were still living, or if any sudden disaster had 
swept them away. And one replied 

" We have heard of the hero Finn, who ruled the 
Fena of Erin in times of old, and who never had an 
equal for bravery and wisdom. The poets of the 
Gaels have written many books concerning his deeds 

* The gigantic race of the Fena had all passed away, and Erin 
was now inhabited by people who looked very small in Oisin's eyes. 


and the deeds of the Feua, which we cannot now 
relate ; but they are all gone long since, for they lived 
many ages ago. We have heard also, and we have 
seen it written in very old books, that Finn had a son 
named Oisin. Now this Oisin went with a young 
fairy maiden to Tirnanoge, and his father and his 
friends sorrowed greatly after him, and sought him 
long ; but he was never seen again." 

When I heard all this, I was filled with amaze- 
ment, and my heart grew heavy with great sorrow. I 
silently turned my steed away from the wondering 
people, and set forward straightway for Allen of the 
mighty deeds, on the broad, green plains of Leinster. 
It was a miserable journey to me ; and though my 
mind, being full of sadness at all I saw and heard, 
forecasted further sorrows, I was grieved more than 
ever when I reached Allen. For there, indeed, I found 
the hill deserted and lonely, and my father's palace all 
in ruins and overgrown with grass and weeds. 

I turned slowly away, and afterwards fared 
through the land in every direction in search of my 
friends. But I met only crowds of little people, all 
strangers, who gazed on me with wonder ; and none 
knew me. I visited every place throughout the 
country where I knew the Fena had lived; but I 
found their houses all like Allen, solitary and in 

At length I came to Glenasmole,* where many a 

* Glenasmole, a fine valley about seven miles south of Dublin. 
through which the river Dodder Sows. 


time I had hunted in days of old with the Fen a, and 
there I saw a crowd of people in the glen. As soon as 
they saw me, one of them came forward and said 

"Come to us, thou mighty hero, and help us out 
of our strait ; for thou art a man of vast strength." 

I went to them, and found a number of men trying 
in vain to raise a large, flat stone. It was half lifted 
from the ground ; but those who were under it were 
not strong enough either to raise it further or to free 
themselves from its weight. And they were in great 
distress, and on the point of being crushed to death. 

I thought it a shameful thing that so many men 
should be unable to lift this stone, which Oscar, if he 
were alive, would take in his right hand and fling 
over the heads of the feeble crowd. After I had 
looked a little while, I stooped forward and seized the 
flag with one hand ; and, putting forth my strength 
I flung it seven perches from its place, and relieved 
the little men. But with the great strain the golden 
saddle-girth broke, and, bounding forward to keep 
myself from falling, I suddenly came to the ground 
on my two feet. 

The moment the white steed felt himself free, he 
shook himself and neighed. Then, starting off with 
the speed of a cloud-shadow on a March day, he left 
me standing helpless and sorrowful. Instantly a 
woeful change came over me : the sight of my eyes 
began to fade, the ruddy beauty of my face fled, I lost 
all my strength, and I fell to the earth, a poor, 
withered old man, blind and wrinkled and feeble. 


The white steed was never seen again. I never 
recovered my sight, my youth, or my strength ; and I 
have lived in this manner, sorrowing without ceasing 
for my gentle, golden-haired wife, Niam, and thinking 
ever of my father, Finn, and of the lost companions of 
my youth. 



A PRINCELY upright hundred-herd brugaidf was born 
one time in the lovely province of Connaught, namely fc 
Conall Derg O'Corra the fair-haired. And thus was 
this brugaid (circumstanced) : he was a fortunate, 
rich, prosperous man ; and his house was never found 
without three shouts in it the shout of the brewers 
brewing ale, and the shout of the servants over the 

* I translated this tale fifteen years ago (as mentioned in Preface, 
page xiii) from two Royal Irish Academy MSS., 23. N. 15 and 23. 
M. 50; and I subsequently made some modifications after I had an 
opportunity of consulting the more correct text of the Book of Fermoy. 
This last text has since been published, with literal translation, by 
Dr. Whitley Stokes, in the Revue Celtique (Jan. 1893). After com- 
paring my somewhat free version with Dr. Stokes's close translation, 
I have not thought it necessary to make any changes. 

A few of the adventures in this tale are identical with those described 
fri the Voyage of Maildun : the description of these I have omitted 
iiere. Locban, Enna, and Silvester, the chief characters in this extra- 
ordinary fiction, are historical : they were saints of the primitive Irish 
church, and lived in the sixth century. 

t Brtqaid, a sort of local officer who maintained a large establishment 
as keeper of a house of publio hospitality. See my " Short History of 
Ireland," p. 57. 


caldrons distributing (meat) to the hosts, and the shout 
of the youths over the chessboards* winning games 
from one another. 

The same house was never without three measures : 
a measure of malt for making yeast, a measure of 
wheat for providing bread for the guests, and a 
measure of salt for savouring each kind of food. 

His wife wasCairdergaf the daughter of the Erenach+ 
of Clogher.H They felt no want of any kind except 
being without children ; and it was not that they were 
without children (being born to them), but that the 
infants always died the moment after birth. 

Then this brugaid said (one day) to his wife as 
she reclined near him on the couch : " It is a sad 
thing for us," said he, " that we have no children who 
would take our place and fill it worthily when we are 

" What desire is in your mind in regard to that ? " 
says the wife. 

" It is my desire," says the brugaid, " to make a 
bond with the demon to try if he would give us a son 
or a daughter who would take our place after us (since 
God has not done so)." 

" Let us do that," said the woman. 

Chess -playing was a favourite amusement among the ancient 

t Cairderga : original Gaer-derg, red berry. 

% Erenach, the holder or impropriator of a church and its laiida: 
usually a layman. 

| Clogher in Tyrone where there was a monastery. 


They accordingly fasted (and prayed) to the 
demon ; (and the demon hearkened unto them. And 
in due time) the pains and struggles, of childbirth 
came upon the lady ; and she bore three sons at that 
great birth, namely, a son at the beginning of the 
night, and a son at the middle of the night, and a son 
at the end of the night. 

And they were baptised according to the baptism of 
the pagans (by which they were dedicated not to God 
but to the demon) ; and their names were Lochan, 
Enna, and Silvester And after that, they were reared 
and carefully trained up fill they were swift and active 
on sea and land ; so that they were an overmatch for 
all the young people of their own age in every game 
and in every accomplishment. And they were in the 
mouths and on the tongues of all who saw or heard of 
them in their day. 

One day when they were resting at the railings of 
the house of their father and mother, wearied after 
their hurling and their martial games, the housefolk 
said that they saw no fault or defect in these handsome 
much-renowned youths, except only their being baptised 
in the service of the devil. (And the youths hearing 
this said) : " If it be so," said they, " that the devil 
is our lord and master, it is very wrong of us not to 
bring ruin and wrath and woe on his enemies, that is to 
say, (we ought) to slaughter the clergy, and burn and 
spoil their churches '' 

Then did these three youths arise, (and collecting a 
band), and taking unto them their arms, they came to 

Tnam-da-Ghialann,* and spoiled and burned the town. 
And (after that) they plundered and made dreadful 
havoc on the churches and clergy throughout the 
province of Connaught, until their wicked and blood- 
thirsty ravages were noised over the four quarters of 
Erin. Thus did they run their evil course without 
ceasing for a whole year, during which time they 
destroyed more than half the churches of Connaught. 

At the end of the year Loohan said to his brothers : 
" We have made one great mistake through forgetful- 
ness," says he, " and our lord the devil will not be 
thankful to us on account of it." " What is that ? " 
said the other two youths. " Our grandfather," says 
he, " that is our mother's father not to have killed him 
and burned his church." 

So they set out straightway, journeying without 
sparing or respite (to Clogher), and this was how 
they found the erenach, namely, on the green of the 
church with a great company of his folk around him, 
(waiting for the O'Corras), in order to attend on them 
and to deal out to them the choice of every food and 
the best of every ale. And the intention that the 
elder had towards them, that indeed was not the 
intention they had towards him, but to murder him 
and to burn and spoil his church. 

Then the O'Corras came to the spot where the elder 
was standing, and they made up their minds not to kill 
him or burn the houses till night, when the cows and 

* Tuam-da-Gualann, where was formerly a celebrated ecclesiastical 
establishment: now Tuam in Galway. 



the (other) cattle of the homestead would be housed, 
all in their own proper places. 

The elder welcomed them and led them to the 
homestead ; and he now became aware of their inten- 
tion. Nevertheless he put them in a goodly pleasant 
Grceiian* and they were served with food and ale till 
they became exhilarated and cheerful : after which 
couches were made ready for them on lofty bedsteads. 

And now deep slumber and heavy sleep fell on them, 
and a wonderful vision was revealed in a dream to 
Lochan, the eldest of the sons of O'Corra, in which he 
was carried to see heaven and hell. And after this he 
awoke. The other two awoke at the same time, and 
they said : " Let us now arise, for it is time to plunder 
and destroy the homestead." 

" Seems to me," said Lochan, " that this is not the 
right thing for us to do : for evil is the lord we have 
served until now, and good is the Lord we have plundered 
and outraged. 

" And last night I had," said he, " a fearful dream, 
in which I saw a vision of heaven and hell. And first 
I was taken to see hell, where were countless souls of 
men and vast crowds of demons suffering divers tortures, 
and plagues unexampled. And I saw the four rivers 
of hell, that is to say, a river of toads, a river of 
serpents, a river of fire, and a river of snow. I saw 
also a monstrous serpent with many heads and legs, 

* Greenan : original griandn, literally a sunny place : a summer- 
house : the most lightsome, airy, and pleasant apartment of a house. 
See this word discussed in my " Irish Names of Places," vol. i. p. 291. 


at sight whereof, even though it were only a single 
glance, all the men in the world would drop dead with 
loathing and horror. 

" After this methought I was taken to see heaven ; 
where I beheld the Lord Himself seated on His kingly 
throne, and angels in the shapes of white birds singing 
for Him. And among them was one great snow-white 
bird of dazzling brightness that excelled all the others 
in size and beauty and voice, chanting strains of sur- 
passing sweetness. Women in travail and men sore 
wounded and sick people racked with pain would fall 
asleep if they heard the delightful harmony of his 
voice. And it was made known to me that this great 
bird who chanted such heavenly music to his mild Lord 
was Michael the Archangel. 

" And now my brothers." said Lochan, " it is my 
counsel to you that you follow Gk>d henceforward." 

' But." said the others, " will the Lord accept re- 
pentance from us for the dreadful evils we have already 
done ? " 

They go to the father of their mother, namely, the 
erenach, and they ask this thing of him. " He will accept 
your repentance without doubt," says the erenach. 

" Well then," said Lochan, "let Mass be celebrated 
for us, and put us under instruction, and let us offer 
our confession to God. After that we will make staffs 
of the handles of our spears ; and we will go to Finnen 
of Clouard,* the tutor of the saints and of "the just 

* For St. Finnen of Clonard in the County Meath, see my " Short 
History of Ireland," p. 175 


men of all Erin. He is a very holy man, and he will 
advise us in regard to what we ought to do." 

To this counsel they agreed ; and on the morrow 
they set out for the place where Finnen was ; whom 
they found on the green of Clonard with a number of 
his clerics. 

" Who are these coming towards us ? " said the 
clerics. And one said, " They are the O'Corras the 
robbers." Hearing this they fled, like lightning, in 
a body from their master, for they felt quite sure 
that the O'Corras were coming to slay them ; so that 
Finnen was left quite alone before the three brothers. 

" It is from us the clerics are fleeing: " says Lochan. 
" Of a certainty it is," said his brothers. " Let us," 
said Lochan, " cast from us our staffs, the only little 
remnant of our arms left with us ; and let us throw 
.ourselves on our knees before the cleric." 

And this they did. " What is your desire ? " says 
the cleric (Finnen). "Our desire," said they, "is 
faith and piety, and to serve God, and to abandon the 
lord whom we have hitherto served, namely, the devil." 

" That is a good resolution," says the cleric ; " and 
let us go now to the homestead yonder, the place where 
live our brotherhood." 

They go accordingly with him to the brotherhood ; 
and after the matter had been considered, it was arranged 
to set apart a young cleric to teach them ; and it was 
decreed- that they should not speak to any one except 
their own master till the end of a year. 

So they continued for a whole year till they had 


read the Canons through , and by the time they had 
come to be able to read them, the whole brotherhood 
felt grateful (to God) for their piety and their gentle- 

At the end of the year they came to Finnen ; and 
they knelt before him, and said to him : "It is time 
now that we should be judged and sentence passed on 
us for- the great crimes we have committed. 

" What," said Finnen, " do ye not think it enough 
the penance you have done already for a whole year 
among the brotherhood?" "It is not enough,' said 
they. " What then are the greatest crimes ye have 
committed ? " says Finnen. " We have burned more 
than half the churches of Connaught; and neither 
priest nor bishop got quarter or protection from us." 

" You cannot " replied Finnen, " give back life to 
the people you have killed ; but do ye that which will 
be in your power, namely, to build up the churches ye 
have burned, and to repair every other damage ye have 
committed in them. And I will give to each man 
of you,' says he. " the swiftness and strength of a 
hundred ; and I will take from you all weariness of 
feet, of hands, and of body ; and I will give you light 
and understanding which will have neither decay nor 

So the Q'Corras departed, and went first to Tuam- 
da-Gualann ; and after that, they fared through the 
province, obedient to rule and working hard each day, 
until it came to pass that they had restored everything 
they had previously destroyed. 


After that they came at the end of the year to 
speak with Finnen. " Have you been able," asks 
Finnen, "to repair everything ye destroyed belonging 
to the Church ? " " We have," said they, " except one 
place alone, namely Kenn-Mara."* " Alas for that," 
says Finnen ; " that is the very first place you should 
have repaired ; for it is the homestead of the oldest of 
all the saints of Ireland, namely, the aged Camann of 
Kenn-Mara. And now go and carefully restore every- 
thing ye have destroyed in that homestead. Arid the 
sentence that holy man passes on you, fulfil it patiently." 

So they went gladly to Kenn-Mara; and they 
repaired everything they had ruined there. 

One day when they had come forth from the home- 
stead, they sat on the margin of the little bay, watching 
the sun as it went westward. And as they gazed and 
reflected on the course of the sun, they began to marvel 
greatly, pondering whither it went after it had gone 
down beneath the verge of the sea. " What more 
wonderful thing is there in the whole world," said 
they, " than that the sea does not freeze into ice, while 
ice is formed in every other water !" 

Thereupon they formed the resolution on the spot 
to bring unto them a certain artificer who was a fast 
friend of theirs, and to (get him) to make a three-hide 
curraghf for them. Accordingly the curragh was made, 
and a strong-sided one it was. And the reward the 

* Eenn-Mara, now Kinvarra on Galway bay. 

t Curragh, see note 17 at end. Some curragbs were made with two 
some with three hides, one outside another, for the better security. 


artificer asked for building it was to be let go with 

Wheu the time had come, and they were about to 
embark, they saw a large crowd passing close by ; and 
this crowd was a company of crosscuts* When the 
crossam saw the curragh putting forth on the sea, 
they inquired : " Who are yonder people that are 
launching this curragh on the sea ? " said they. 

The furshore (juggler) of the crossans said : " I 
know them well ; they are the sons of Conall derg 
O'Corra the fair-haired of Connaught, the destroyers 
and robbers, going on their pilgrimage t>n the sea and 
on the great ocean, to make search for their Lord." 
"And indeed," added the furshore, "my word for it, 
they do not stand more in need of seeking for heaven 
than we do." 

" It is a long day I fancy till you go on your pil- 
grimage," said the leader of the band, " Say not so," 
answered the furshore : " for I will certainly go with 
these people on my pilgrimage now without delay." 

" Upon our word," said the crossans, " you will not 
take away our clothes with you ; for not a single article 
of the garments you wear belongs to you." " It is not 
so small a matter that would keep me with you," says he. 

So they stripped off all his clothes, and sent him 
away mother naked to the eurragh. 

Crossans : travelling gleemen : the clothes, musical instruments, &c., 
were the property of the company. This word is the origin of the 
Scotch and Irish family name MacCrossan, now often changed to 
Crosbie. A company of crossans had always among them &fuirseoir t .* 
a juggler or buffoon 


" Who and what in the world are you. good man? " 
asked the crew. "A poor wretch who wishes to go 
with you on pilgrimage," said he. " Indeed," said 
they, " you shall not by any means come with us, 
seeing that you are stark naked." " Say not so. young 
men/' said he , " for the sake of God do not refuse me ; 
for I will amuse you and keep your hearts sheerful 
(with my music and singing) ; and your piety will not 
be a whit the worse for it." 

And (inasmuch as he had asked) for the sake of 
God they consented to let him go. 

Now this is how it was with the crew: each man 
of them had built a church and raised an altar to the Lord 
in his own district Their number was nine ; among 
whom was a bishop, and a priest, and a deacon ; and 
they had one gilla (attendant) who was the ninth man. 

" Let us go aboard our curragh now," says Lochan, 
" as we have finished our task of restoring the churches, 
and as we have, besides, each of us built a church to the 
Lord in our own district.'' 

It was then they put up their prayers fervently to 
God in the hope that they might have fine weather ; 
and that the Lord would quell the fury of the billows, 
and the might of the ocean, and the rage of the terrible 
sea monsters. So they embarked in their curragh, 
bringing their oars ; and they began to question among 
themselves what direction they should take. " The 
direction in which this wind will bring us," says the 
bishop. And having commended themselves to God, 
one and all, they betook them to their oars. A great 


wind now arose, which drove them out on the waste of 
waters straight to the west ; and they were forty days 
and forty nights on the ocean. And God revealed to 
them great and unheard of wonders. 

They had not been long rowing when the crossan 
died ; and sad and sorrowful were they for his loss, and 
wept much. While they were still mourning, they saw 
a little bird alight on the deck of the curragh. And 
the little bird spoke and said to them : " Good people, 
tell me now in God's name what is the cause of your 

" A crossan that we had playing music for us ; and 
he died a little while ago in this curragh ; and that is 
the cause of our sorrow." 

And the bird said : " Lo, I am your little crossan : 
and now be not sorrowful any longer, for I am going 
straightway to heaven." So saying he bade them fare- 
well and flew away. 

They row forward for a long time till there waa 
shown to them a wonderful island, and in it a great 
grove of marvellous beauty, laden with apples, golden 
coloured and sweet scented. A sparkling rivulet of 
wine flowed through the midst of the grove ; and when 
the wind blew through the trees, sweeter than any music 
was the rustling it made. The O'Corras ate some of 
the apples and drank from the rivulet of wine, and 
were immediately satisfied. And from that time forth 
they were never troubled by either wounds or sickness. 


Then they took to their oars ; and after a time they 
came in view of another island, and four companies of 
people in it, such as had never been seen before. Novi 
these people had divided the island into four parts : old 
greyheaded people were in the first division ; princes 
in the second ; warriors in the third ; and servants in the 
fourth. They were all beautiful and glorious to behold ; 
and they diverted themselves continually with games and 
pastimes. One of the crew went to them to ask news : 
(he was a comely, well-favoured youth, but) he seemed 
ugly and dark-visaged in presence of these glorious 
people. When he had got among them, he became in 
a moment beautiful like the others ; and he joined in 
their games, and laughed, and made merry. Moreover 
he remembered nothing more of his companions; and 
he sojourned in the island after that for evermore. And 
the O'Corras were at length forced to depart, though 
much grieved for the loss of their companion. 

Then they set out and rowed for some time till they 
sighted another marvellous island. It stood up in the 
air high over the great sea ; and it was propped up by a 
pillar like a single foot standing under it in the middle. 
And the crew heard great shouting and the loud con- 
versation of people on the top of the island overhead ; 
but though the O'Corras sailed round and round, they 
could not get a sight of them. 



They row forward after that till they come to an 
in which lived one lone cleric Very lovely was 
that island, and glorious its history. Beautiful purple 
flowers covered all the plains, dropping honey in abun- 
dance ; and on the trees were perched flocks of bright- 
coloured birds singing slow sweet fairy-music. The 
O'Corras went to ask the cleric about himself and 
about the island. And he spoke as follows : 

" I am a disciple of St. Andrew the Apostle, and 
Dega is my name. On a certain night I neglected to 
read my Matins ; and it is for this that I was seat on 
a pilgrimage on the ocean ; and here I am awaiting 
the Judgment day. And yonder birds that are singing 
those incomparable strains on the trees, these are the 
souls of holy men " 

They took leave of the old man and plied their 
oars, till they reached another island, with dead people 
on one side of it, and living people on the other side : 
and many of the living people had feet of iron. All 
round was a burning sea, which broke over the island 
continually in mighty waves. And the living people 
tittered fearful cries when the fiery waves flowed over 
them, for their torments thereby were great and terrible. 

After leaving this they rowed on till they saw an 
island formed of great flat stones for ever burning red 


hot. And thereon they saw whole hosts of people 
burning in great torment ; and many had red fiery 
spits thrust through their bodies. And they uttered 
great cries of pain without ceasing. The crew called 
out from a distance to ask who they were : whereupon 
one answered : 

"This is one of the flagstones of hell. We are 
souls who in life did not fulfil the penance imposed on 
us ; and warn all men to avoid this place ; for whoso- 
ever cometh hither shall never go hence till the Day of 


The next island they saw was very beautiful and 
glorious to look upon. It had a wall of copper all 
round it, with a network of copper hanging out from 
each corner ; and in the centre stood a palace. The 
crew left their curragh on the strand and went towards 
the palace. And when they had come nigh unto the 
wall, the wind, as it rustled and murmured through 
the copper network, made music so soft and sweet that 
they fell into a gentle slumber, and slept for three 
days and three nights. When they awoke they saw a 
beautiful maiden coming towards them from the palace. 
She had sandals of findrina (a sort of white metal) on 
her feet, and an inner garment of fine silk next her 
snow-white skin. She wore a beautiful gold-coloured 
vest, and over all a bright-tinted mantle, plaited five- 
fold on its upper border, and fastened at the neck with 
a brooch of burnished gold. In one hand she held a 
pitcher of copper, and in the other a silver goblet. 


When she had come near she greeted them and 
bade them welcome. And she gave them food from 
the copper pitcher which seemed to them like cheese ; 
and she brought them water in the silver goblet from a 
well on the strand. And there was no delicious flavoui 
that was ever tasted by man that they did not find in 
this food and drink. Then the maiden said to them : 
" Although we are all you and I of one race, yet 
shall ye go hence without delay, for your resurrection 
is not to be here." 

So they bade her farewell and took to their bars 
once more. 


After rowing for some time they saw flocks of large 
birds of divers colours tiying over the sea ; and their 
number was great beyond counting. One of them 
alighted on the deck of the curragh. 

'* It would be a delightful thing," said one of the 
clerics, ''if this bird were a messenger from the Lord, 
sent to give us news." 

" That would be quite possible with God," said the 
eldest ; and as he spoke he raised his eyes and looked 
at the bird. Whereupon the bird spoke and said : 

"It is indeed to converse with you that I have 
come ; for I am of the land of Erin." 

Now this bird was crimson red all over, except 
three beautiful streaks on her breast, which shone as 
bright as the sun. And after a time she said to the 
same cleric: 

" I am the soul of a woman ; aud I am your friend. 


And come ye now," says she, " to hear yonder birds ; 
for these are the souls that are permitted to come out 
of hell every Sunday.'* 

" It is better that we leave this place at once," 
said the same old cleric. And his companions said 
to him : 

" We will go with thee whithersoever thou goest." 
So they departed from that place; (and the crimson 
red bird went with them). 


And as they went, they saw three wonderful 
streams, namely, a stream of otters, a stream of eels, 
and a stream of black swans. Great flocks of birds 
arose from these three streams and flew past the 
voyagers ; and the black swans followed close after, 
tearing and tormenting the birds. And the crimson 
red bird said : 

" Marvel not, neither be ye sad of heart ; for these 
bird-shapes that ye see are the souls of people suffering 
the punishment of their crimes. And the black swans 
that follow them, these are devils who are for ever 
tormenting them ; and the birds scream fearfully, and 
are for ever trying to fly from the demons and to free 
themselves from their torment. 

" And now as to me," continued the bird, " I am 
about to depart from you. It is not permitted me to 
make known to you what is to befal you ; but in a 
little time another will tell you all that you need to 


And the cleric said: "Tell us, I beseech thee, 
what are those three beautiful streaks on thy breast." 

" I will tell you that," answered the bird. " When 
I was in the world I was married ; but I did not yield 
obedience to my husband, neither did I fulfil my lawful 
homely duties as a wife. And when a grievous sick- 
ness came upon him I left him to die. But thrice I 
went in pity to him : once to see him and ask after his 
illness ; once to bring him such food as befitted his 
state ; and the third timo when he was dead, to watch 
by the body and see it buried. These three good deeds 
are the three beautiful streaks that you see on my 
breast; and I should have been bright all over like 
these streaks if I had not violated my lawful marriage 

And having so spoken, the bird bade them farewell 
and flew away. 


They next discovered a very beautiful island. The 
grass was bright green, and it was all over inter- 
mingled with pretty purple-coloured flowers. Flocks 
of lovely little birds of many bright colours, and 
myriads of bees> flew among the trees and flowers, 
humming and singing harmonious music. The voy- 
agers saw a venerable grey-headed old man with a 
harp in his hand. He played this harp on the island 
continually ; and the music thereof was sweeter than 
any music they had ever heard. They saluted the old 
man, who saluted them in return, with a blessing. 
But immediately he bade them to depart. 




So they rowed away till they came to another 
island, on which they saw a man digging in a field ; 
and his spade was all fiery, and the handle thereof, 
which he held in his hand, was red hot. From the sea 
at one side arose at times a mighty wave all flaming 
red with fire, which flowed quite over the island and 
over the man. And ever when he saw the wave 
coming he cried out with fear ; and when the burning 
torrent covered him, he strove to raise his head above 
the flames, and roared with his great torment. Now 
when one of the waves had retired they spoke to him 
and asked : 

" Who art thou, wretched man ? " 

And he answered : " Lo, this is my punishment 
for my misdeeds. For when I lived on earth I always 
worked on Sundays, digging in my garden ; for which 
I am condemned to dig with this fiery spade, and to 
suffer the torments of these fiery waves. And now, 
for the sake of God, offer up your prayers for me, that 
my pains may be lightened." 

And they prayed fervently ; after which they 
departed from the island. 


Soon after leaving this they saw a horseman of 
vast size riding on the sea ; and the horse he rode was 
made of fire flaming red. And as he rode, great waves 
of fire came after him along the sea ; and when a 


wave began to roll over him, he yelled aloud with 
fear and pain. Then they asked him why he was 
thus tormented ; and he answered : 

" 1 am he who stole my brother's horse ; and after 
I had gotten him I rode him every Sunday. For thia 
I am now undergoing my punishment, riding on 
this horse of fire, and tormented with these great 
waves of fire." 


After leaving this they came in sight of another 
island, full of people, all weeping and lamenting 
grievously. Great numbers of jet-black birds with 
beaks of fire and red-hot fiery talons followed and 
fluttered round about them, tearing and burning them 
with their talons, and rending away pieces of flesh, the 
full of their fiery beaks. Then the crew said aloud: 

" Who are ye, miserable people ? " 

" We are dishonest smiths and artisans ; and because 
we cheated while we lived, we are punished by these 
hateful fiery birds. Moreover, our tongues are burning, 
being all afire in our heads ; for that we reviled peoplp 
with bitter words and foul taunts." 


Coming now to another place, they saw a giant 
huge in size, and of a sooty black colour all over. 
His mouth was all on fire ; and from his throat he 
belched forth great flakes of fire, each flake as it 
came from his mouth larger than the skin of a three- 


year-old wether. He held in his hand an iron club 
larger than the shaft of a mill wheel ; and on his back 
he bore an immense faggot of firewood, a good load for 
a team of horses. Now this faggot often blazed up and 
burned him ; and he tried to free himself from his 
torment by lying down so that the sea might flow over 
him. But ever as he did so, the sea around him 
turned to fire, and rose up in mighty burning billows, 
covering him all over, so that he made the place resound 
with his bello wings. 

" Miserable wretch, who art thou ? " asked the crew. 

And he answered : " I will tell you truly. When 
I lived I used to cut faggots and bring them home on my 
back every Sunday : and lo, here is my punishment." 


They came after that to a sea of fire full of men's 
heads, all black, and continually fighting with each 
other. And many great serpents rose up among the 
heads and came with fury to attack the curragh, so 
that at one time they pierced through the outer hide. 
And one of the crew who looked on cried out in great 
horror, and said : 

"It is enough to strike one dead to behold the 
fearful things I see ! " 

And the whole crew when they saw the heads and 
the serpents fell flat with fear. But the elder (the 
bishop) comforted them, saying : 

'' Be ye not afraid or troubled on account of these 
things ; for God is able to protect us, even though we 


were in a curragh of only one hide ; and if He wishes 
to save us, these monsters cannot hurt us, however 
furious they may be to slay us." 

And they took courage after this, and rowed out 
into the open sea. 


There was shown to them next another beautiful 
island, having in one place an open wood. The trees 
were laden with fruit, and the leaves dropped honey to 
the ground. The sides of the hills were clothed with 
purple blossomed heather, mixed with soft, green 
grass to its very centre. In the midst of the island 
was a pretty lake, whose waters tasted like sweet wine. 
They rested for a week on the shore of this lake, and 
cast off their weariness. And now, being about to 
leave the island, as they turned to go to the curragh. a 
monstrous reptile* rose up from the lake and looked 
at them. And they trembled with fear at the sight of 
this terrible beast ; for each man thought that he him- 
self would be the first to be attacked. But after a little 
time the reptile dived again into the water, and they 
saw no more of him. 


From this they rowed away ; and after a long 
time they came at midnight to an island wherein 

According to very ancient legends., which are still vividly remem- 
bered and recounted all over the country, almost every lake in Ireland 
has a tremendous hairy reptile in its waters. Some say they are demons, 
sent by St. Patrick to reside at the bottom of the lakes to the Day of 


was a community of Ailbe of Emly.* On the beach 
they found two spring wells ; one foul, the other 
bright and clear. The gilla wished to driuk of the 
clear well ; but the elder (the bishop) told him it was 
better to ask leave, if there was anyone living on the 

Then they saw a great light; and coming closer, 
they found the twelve men of the community at their 
prayers ; and now they perceived that the bright light 
they saw came from the radiant faces of the twelve ; so 
that these holy men needed no other light. One of 
them, an old man, comes towards the voyagers ; and 
he bids them welcome and asks news of them. They 
tell him all their adventures, and ask his leave to 
drink from the well ; whereupon he said to them : 
" Ye may fill your pitchers from the clear well, if your 
elder (*. e. the bishop) gives you leave." 

" Who are ye ?" asks the gilla. 

" A community of Ailbe of Emly," says he : " and 
we are the crew of one of Ailbe's curraghs. God has 
permitted that we live here till the Day of Judgment, 
praying for everyone who is drowned at sea. And 
now leave this land before morning," he added, " for 
pour resurrection is not to be here. And if ye have 
not left by the dawn, so much the worse for yourselves ; 
for if once ye get a view of this island in the light of 
day, bitter will be your anguish of mind for leaving it 

* St. Ailbe, the patron of Monster, was a contemporary of St. 
Patrick. He founded his great monastery and school at Emly in the 
County Limerick. 


(on account of its surpassing loveliness). So it is better 
for you to go away during the night." 

And they did exactly all he told them to do. 

" Shall we take away some of the pebbles of the 
strand ? " said they (talking among themselves). 

" It is better to ask leave," answered the cleric. So 
the gilla asked leave of the same old man. 

" Yes, if you have the permission (of your bishop)," 
answered he. "Nevertheless," he added, "those who 
take them will be sorry ; and those who do not take 
them will be sorry also." 

They pick up pebbles, some bringing away one, 
some two, some three. (After which they row away in 
the dark night from the island.) In the morning they 
drank some of the spring water of the island from their 
pitchers ; which threw them into a deep sleep from that 
time till next day. On wakening up, they examined 
their pebbles in the light ; and some were found to be 
crystal, some silver, and some gold. Then those who 
brought some away were in sorrow that they had not 
brought more ; and much greater was the sorrow of 
those who had brought away none. So the words of 
the old man came true. 


After leaving this .they came to a lovely island on 
which was a church standing all alone : and when they 
drew nigh they heard the voice of a cleric singing the 
psalms with a sweet voice. They came to the dooi 
and struck it with the hand- wood ; and straightway a 
beautiful bright-coloured bird came to speak with them. 


When they had told him who they were and what they 
wanted, he flew back to the cleric, who bade him have 
the door opened for the pilgrims. And when they had 
come in, they found the cleric a very old man with 
white hair who sang his hymns continually. And 
they saluted each other ; and the pilgrims stayed there 
that night. And an angel came and brought them 
supper, and ministered unto them On the morrow the 
old priest bade them depart, since that was not to be 
the place of their resurrection on the Judgment Day. 
But before they went he foretold all that should happen 
to them during the rest of their voyage. 


From that they came to an island in which was a 
disciple of Christ. Glorious and beautiful was that 
island ; and on it stood a church and a kingly shrine. 
As they came near they heard some one singing the 
Pater to God in the door of the church -. whereupon 
one of the clerics said : 

" Welcome the prayer of our father and teacher, 
Jesus " 

And the priest who stood praying at the door 

" Why say you so ? Who are ye ; and where have 
ye seen Him ? " 

And when they had told him that they were 
servants of Jesus, he spoke again : 

" I too am one of His disciples. And when I first 
took Him for my Lord I was faithful and steady ; but 


after a time I left Him and came to sea in my eurragh, 
and rowed till I came to this island. For a long time 
I lived on fruit and herbs ; till at length an angel came 
from heaven to visit me. And he said to me : 

" ' Thou hast not done well : nevertheless thou shalt 
abide on this island, eating the same food without 
either decay or death till the Judgment Day.' And so 
I have lived here to this hour : and no daily meal is 
sent to me, but I eat of the herbs and fruit that grow 
on the island." 

Then they all went together into one house ; and 
being very hungry, they prayed fervently for food. 
And presently an angel came down from heaven ; and 
while they looked on he placed a supper for them on a 
flagstone hard by the strand, namely, a cake with a 
slice of fish for each. And while they ate, whatsoever 
taste each man separately wished for. that taste he 
found on the food. In the morning, when they were 
about to bid the cleric farewell, he foretold all that 
should happen to < ' em, saying : 

" Ye shall go from me now on sea till ye reach the 
western point of Spain. And as ye near the land, ye 
shall meet a boat with a crew of men fishing, who will 
bring you with them to land." 

Then turning to the bishop, he said : " Imme- 
diately after leaving the eurragh, as soon as thou hast 
reached the land, prostrate thyself three times to Grod. 
And the place on which thou shalt first set thy foot, 
there a great crowd shall gather round thee from every 
Quarter. And they will treat thee kindly, and will 


give thee land on which they will build a church for 
thee; and after this thy fame shall spread over the 
whole world. And the successor of Peter (the Pope) 
shall bring thee eastwards to Puome. Yonder priest 
thou shalt leave as thy successor in the church, and the 
deacon thou shalt leave to be his sacristan. That place 
and that church shall be revered, and shall be preserved 
for ever. And thou shalt leave the Gilla A n Britain, 
where he will live for the rest of his life " 

After this they bade the old man farewell and 
left the island. And all fell out just as he had foretold. 
And the bishop went to Rome ; and he afterwards re- 
lated these adventures to Saerbrethach bishop of West 
Muuster, and to Mocolmoc, one of the holy men of 
Aran, as we have set them down here. 

Thus far the Voyage of the Sons of O'Corra. 


Avenging and bright fall the swift sword of Erin 
On him who the hrave sons of Usna betrayed. 




CONCOBAR MACNESSA, king of Ulaid,t ruled in Emain. 
Aud his chief story-teller, Felimid, made a feast for the 
king and for the knights of the Red Branch,* who all 
came to partake of it in his house. While they were 
feasting right joyously, listening to the sweet music 
of the harps and the mellow voices of the bards, a 
messenger brought word that Felimid's wife had given 
birth to a little daughter, an infant of wondrous beauty. 
And when Caffa, the king's druid and seer, who was 
of the company, was ware of the birth of the child, lie 
went forth to view the stars and the clouds, if he might 

* The translation that follows is my own, and is of course copyright, 
like all the other translations in this book. On this fine story is 
founded the epic poem of " Deirdre," by Robert Dwyer Joyce, M.D. 

t Ulaid (pronounced Ulla), Ulster. 

J For Concobar and the Bed Branch Knights, see note 15 farther 
on: and for much fuller information, see my "Social History of 
Ancient Ireland," vol. i, page 83 ; or the Smaller Sou. Hist., page 38. 


thereby glean knowledge of what was in store for that 
little babe.* And when he had returned to his place, 
lie sat deep pondering for a time : and then standing 
up and obtaining silence, he said 

" This child shall be called Deir-dref; and fittingly 
is she so named : for much of woe will befall Ulaid 
and Erin in general on her account. There shall be 
jealousies, and strifes, and wars : evil deeds will be 
done : many heroes will be exiled : many will fall." 

When the heroes heard this, they were sorely 
troubled, and some said that the child should be killed. 
But the king said : " Not so, ye Knights of the E-ed 
Branch; it is not meet to commit a base deed in order 
to escape evils that may never come to pass. This 
little maid shall be reared out of the reach of mischief, 
and when she is old enough she shall be my wife : thus 
shall I be the better able to guard against those evils 
that Caffa forecasts for us." 

And the Ultoniaus did not dare to gainsay the 
word of the king. 

Then king Concobar caused the child to be placed 
in a strong fortress on a lonely spot nigh the palace, 
with no opening in front, but with door and windows 
looking out at the back on a lovely garden watered by 
a clear rippling stream : and house and garden were 
surrounded by a wall that no man could surmount. 
And those who were put in charge of her were, her 

* The druids professed to be able to foretell by observing the stars 
and clouds. See Smaller Social History, p. 98. 
t "Deirdre " is said to mean " alarm." 


tutor, and her nurse, and Concobar's poetess, whose 
name was Lavaream : and save these three, none were 
permitted to see her. And so she grew up in tins 
solitude, year by year, till she was of marriageable 
age, when she excelled all the maidens of her time for 

One snowy day as she and Lavaream looked forth 
from the window, they saw some blood on the snow, 
where her tutor had killed a calf for dinner ; and a 
raven alighted and began to drink of it. " I should 
like," said Deirdre, " that he who is to be my husband 
should have these three colours : his hair as black as 
the raven : his cheeks red as the blood : his skin like 
the snow. And I saw such a youth in a dream last 
night ; but I know not where he is, or whether he is 
living on the ridge of the world." 

" Truly," said Lavaream, " the young hero that 
answers to thy words is not far from thee ; for he is 
among Concobar's knights: namely, Naisi the son of 

Now Naisi and his brothers, Ainnli and Ardan, the 
three sons of Usna, were the best beloved of all the 
Red Branch Knights, so gracious and gentle were they 
in time of peace, so skilful and swift-footed in the 
chase, so strong and valiant in battle. 

And when Deirdre heard Lavarcam's words, she 
said : "If it be as thou sayest, that this young knight 
is near us, I shall not be happy till I see him : and I 
beseech thee to bring him to speak to me." 

" Alas, child," replied Lavaream, " thou knowest 


not the peril of what thou askest me to do : for if thy 
tutor come to know of it, he will surely tell the king ; 
and the king's anger none can bear." 

Deirdre answered not : but she remained for many 
days sad and silent : and her eyes often filled with 
tears through memory of her dream : so that Lavarcam 
was grieved : and she pondered on the thing if it could 
be done, for she loved Deirdre very much, and had 
compassion on her. At last she contrived that these 
two should meet without the tutor's knowledge: and 
the end of the matter was that they loved each other : 
and Deirdre said she would never wed the king, but 
she would wed Naisi. 

Knowing well the doom that awaited them when 
Concobar oame to hear of this, Naisi and his young 
wife and his two brothers, with thrice fifty fighting 
men, thrice fifty women, thrice fifty attendants, and 
thrice fifty hounds, fled over sea to Alban. And the 
king of the western part of Alban received them 
kindly, and took them into military service. Here 
they remained for a space, gaining daily in favour : 
but they kept Deirdre apart, fearing evil if the king 
should see her. 

And so matters went on, till it chanced that the 
king's steward, coming one day by Naisi's house, saw 
the couple as they sat on their couch : and going 
directly to his master, he said : 

"0 king, we have long sought in vain for a woman 
worthy to be thy wife, and now at last we have found 
her : for the woman, Deirdre, who is with Naisi, is 


worthy to be the wife of the king of the western world. 
And now I give thee this counsel: Let Naisi be 
killed, and then take thou Deirdre for thy wife." 

The king basely agreed to do so ; and forthwith he 
laid a plot to slay the sons of Usna ; which matter 
coming betimes to the ears of the brothers, they fled by 
night with all their people. And when they had got 
to a safe distance, they took up their abode in a wild 
place, where with much ado they obtained food by 
hunting and fishing. And the brothers built them 
three hunting booths in the forest, a little distance 
from that part of the seashore looking towards Erin : 
and the booth in which their food was prepared, in 
that they did not eat ; and the one in which they ate, 
in that they did not sleep. And their people in like 
manner built themselves booths and huts, which gave 
them but scant shelter from wind and weather. 

Now when it came to the ears of the TJltonians, 
that the sons of Usna and their people were in 
discomfort and danger, they were sorely grieved : but 
they kept their thoughts to themselves, for they dared 
not speak their mind to the king. 


Ax this same time a right joyous and very splendid 
feast was given by Coucobar in Ems in Macha to the 
nobles and the knights of his household. And the 


number of the king's household that sat them down 
in the great hall of Emain on that occasion was five 
and three score above six hundred and one thousand.* 
Then arose, in turn, their musicians to sound their 
melodious harpstrings, and their poets and their story- 
tellers to sing their sweet poetic strains, and to recount 
the deeds of the mighty heroes of the olden time. 
And the feasting and the enjoyment went on, and the 
entire assembly were- gay and cheerful. At length 
Concobar arose from where he sat high up on his royal 
seat; whereupon the noise of mirth was instantly 
hushed. And he raised his kingly voice and said : 

" J desire to know from you, ye Nobles and 
Knights of the Red Branch, have you ever seen in 
any quarter of Erin a house better than this house of 
Emain, which is my mansion: and whether you see 
any want in it." 

And they answered that they saw no better house, 
and that they knew of no want in it. 

And the king said : " I know of a great want : 
namely, that we, have not present among us the three 
noble sons of Usna. And why now should they be in 
banishment on account of any woman in the world ? " 

And the nobles replied: " Truly it is a sad filing 
ifhat the sons of Usna, our dear comrades, should be in 
exile and distress. They were a shield of defence to 
Ulaid : and now, kiug, it will please us well that 
thou send for them and bring them back, lest they 

* That is 1665. This inverted method of enumeration was often 
used in Ireland. But they also used direct enumeration like ours. 


ind their people perish by famine or fall by their 

"Let them come," replied Concobar, "and make 
submission to me : and their homes, and their lands 
and their places among the Knights of the lied Branch 
shall be restored to them/' 

Now Concobar was mightily enraged at the marriage 
and flight of Naisi and Deirdre, though he hid his 
mind from all men ; and he spoke these words pretend- 
ing forgiveness and friendship. But there was guile in 
his heart, and he planned to allure them back to Ulaid 
that he might kill them. 

When the feast was ended, and the company had 
departed, the king called unto him Fergus mac Hoy, 
and said : " Go thou, Fergus, and bring back the 
sons of Usna and their people. I promise thee that I 
will receive them as friends should be received, and 
that what awaits them here is not enmity or injury, 
but welcome and friendship. Take my message of 
peace and good will, and give thyself as pledge and 
surety for their safety. But these two things I charge 
t.hee to do: That the moment you land in Ulaid on 
your way back, you proceed straight to Barach's house 
which stands on the sea cliff high over the landing 
place fronting Alban : and that whether the time of 
your arrival be by day or by night, thou see that the 
sons of Usna tarry not, but let them come hither 
direct to Emain, that they may not eat food in Erin 
till they eat of mine." 

And Fergus, suspecting no evil design, promised to 


do as the king directed : for he was glad to be sent on 
this errand, being a fast friend to the sons of Usna. 

Fergus set out straightway, bringing with him 
only his two sons, Illan the Fair and Buinni the Bed, 
and his shield-bearer to carry his shield. And as soon 
as he had departed, Concobar sent for Barach and said 
to him: 

" Prepare a feast in thy house for Fergus : and 
when he visits tliee returning with the sons of Usna, 
invite him to partake of it." And Barach thereupon 
departed for his home to do the bidding of the king 
and prepare the feast. 

Now those heroes of old, on the day they received 
knighthood, were wont to make certain pledges which 
were to bind them for life, some binding themselves 
to one thing, some to another. And as they made the 
promises on the faith of their knighthood, with great 
vows, in presence of kings and nobles, they dared not 
violate them ; no, not even if it was to save the lives of 
themselves and all their friends: for whosoever broke 
through his knighthood pledge was foully dishonoured 
for evermore. And one of Fergus's obligations was 
never to refuse an invitation to a banquet : a thing 
which was well known to King Concobar and to 

As to Fergus mac Roy and his sons: they went on 
board their galley and put to sea, and made no delay 
till they reached the harbour nigh the campment of 
tne sous of Usna. And coming ashore, Fergus gave 
"he loud shout of a mighty man of chase. The sons of 


usna were at that same hour in their booth; and 
Naisi and Deirdre were sitting with a polished 
chessboard between them playing a game. 

And when they heard the shout, Naisi said :^ 
" That is the call of a man from Erin." 

" Not so," replied Deirdre, " it is the call of a man 
of Alban." 

And after a little time when a second shout came, 
Naisi said : " That of a certainty is the call of a man 
of Erin ! " 

But Deirdre again replied : " No, indeed : it 
concerns us not : let us play our game." 

But when a third shout came sounding louder than 
those before, Naisi arose and said: "Now I know 
the voice : that is the shout of Fergus ! " And 
straightway he sent Ardan to the shore to meet him. 

Now Deirdre knew^the voice of Fergus from the 
first: but she kept her thoughts to herself: for her 
heart misgave her that the visit boded evil. And 
when she told Naisi that she knew the first shout, he 
said : " Why, my queen, didst thou conceal it 

And she replied : " Lo, I saw a vision in my 
sleep last night : three birds came to us from Emain 
Maoha, with three drops of honey in their beaks, and 
they left us the honey and took away three drops of 
our blood." 

"What dost thou read from that vision, princess?" 
said Naisi. 

" It denotes the message from Concobar to us," said 


Deirdre ; " for sweet as honey is the message of neace 
from a false man, while he has thoughts of blood 
hidden deep in his heart." 

When Ardan arrived at the shore, the sight of 
Fergus and his two sons was to him like rain on the 
parohed grass ; for it was long since he had seen any 
of his dear comrades from Erin. And he cried out as 
lie came near, " An affectionate welcome to you, my 
dear companions " : and he fell on Fergus's neck and 
kissed Ids cheeks, and did the like to his sons. Then 
he brought them to the hunting-booth ; and Naisi, 
Ainnli, and Deirdre gave them a like kind welcome ; 
after which they asked the news from Erin. 

" The best news I have," said Fergus, " is that 
Concobar has sent me to you with kindly greetings, to 
bring you back to Emain and restore you to your lands 
and homes, and to your pla<jes in the Red Branch; 
and I am myself a pledge for your safety. " 

" It is not meet for them to go," said Deirdre : " for 
here they are under no man's rule ; and their sway in 
Alban is even as great as the sway of Concobar in 

But Fergus said : " One's mother country is better 
Mian all else, and gloomy is life when a man sees not 
his home each morning." 

" Far dearer to me is Erin than Alban," said Naisi, 
" even though my sway should be greater here." 

It was not with Deirdre's consent he spoke these 
words : and she still earnestly opposed their return to 


But Fergus tried to re-assure her: " If all the men 
of Erin were against you," said he, "it would avail 
nought once I have passed my word for your safety." 

" We trust iu thee," said Naisi, " and we will go 
with thee to Erin." 



GOING next morning on board their galleys, Fergus 
and his companions put out on the wide sea : and oar 
and wind bore them on swiftly till they landed on the 
shore of Erin near the house of Baraoh. 

And Deirdre, seating herself on a cliff, looked sadly 
over the waters at the blue headlands of Alban : and 
she uttered this farewell : 

" Dear to me is yon eastern land : Alban with its 
wonders. Beloved is Alban with its bright harbours 
and its pleasant hills of the green slopes. From that 
land I would never depart except to be with Naisi. 

" Kil-Cuan, Kil-Cuau,* whither Ainnli was wont 
to resort : short seemed the time to me while I sojourned 

* This and the other places named in Beirdre's Farewell are all in 
the west of Scotland. 


there with Naisi on the margins of its streams mid 


" GHeii-Lee, Glen-Lee, where I slept happy under 
soft coverlets : fish and fowl, and the flesh of red deer 
and badgers ; these were our fare in Glen-Lee. 


" Glen-Masan, Glen-Masan : tall its cresses of 
white stalks : often were we rocked to sleep in our 
curragh in the grassy harbour of Glen-Masan. 


"Glen-Orohy, Glen-Orchy: over thy straight 
glen rises the smooth ridge that oft echoed to the 
voices of our hounds. No man of the clan was more 
light-hearted than my Naisi when following the chase 
in Glen-Orchy. 


" Glen-Ettive, Glen-Ettive : there it was that my 
first house was raised for me: lovely its woods in the 
smile of the early morn : the sun loves to shine on 

" Glen-da-Roy, Glen-da- Roy : the memory of 
its people is dear to me : sweet is the cuckoo's note 
from the bending bough on the peak over Glen-da- 


"Dear to me is Dreenagh over the resounding 
shore : dear to me its crystal waters over the speckled 
sand. From those sweet places I would never depart, 
but only to be with my beloved Naisi." 

After this they entered the house of Baraoh ; and 
when Barach had welcomed them, he said to Fergus : 
" Here I have a three-days banquet ready for thee, and 
I invite thee to come and partake of it.*' 

When Fergus heard this, his heart sank and his 
face waxed all over a crimson red : and he said fiercely 
to Baraoh : " Thou hast done an evil thing to ask me 
to this banquet : for well thou knowest I cannot refuse 
thee. Thou k no west, too, that I am under solemn 
pledge to send the Sous of Usna this very hour to 
Emain : and if I remain feasting in thy house, how 
shall I see that my promise of safety is respected ?" 

But none the less did Barach persist ; for he was 
one of the partners in Concobar's treacherous design. 

Then Fergus turned to Naisi and said : " I dare 
not violate my knighthood promise : what am I to 
do in this strait ? " But Deirdre answered for her 
husband : " The choice is before thee, Fergus ; and 
it is more meet for thee to abandon thy feast than to 
abandon the sons of TJsua, who have come over on thy 

Then Fergus was in sore perplexity; and pondering 
a little he said : "I will not forsake the sons of Usua : 
for I will send with them to Emain Macha my two 


sons, Ulan the Fair and Buinni the Red, who will be 
their pledge instead of me." 

But Naisi said : " We need not thy sons for guard 
or pledge : we have ever been accustomed to defend 
ourselves ! " And he moved from the place in great 
wrath : and his two brothers, and Deirdre, and the two 
sons of Fergus followed him, with the rest of the clan ; 
while Fergus remained behind silent and gloomy : for 
his heart misgave him that mischief was brewing for 
the sons of Usna. 

Then Deirdre tried to persuade the sons of Usna 
to go to Rathlin, between Erin and Alban, and tarry 
there till Baraoh's feast was ended : but they did not 
consent to do so, for they deemed it would be a mark 
of cowardice : and they sped on by the shortest ways 
towards Emain Macha. 

When now they had come to Finoarn of the 
Watch-tower on Slieve Fuad, Deirdre and her atten- 
dants stayed behind the others a little : and she fell 
asleep. And when Naisi missed her, he turned back 
and found her just awakening ; and he said to her : 
" Why didst thou tarry, my princess ?" 

And she answered : " I fell asleep and had a 
dream. And this is what I saw in my dream : Illan 
the Fair took your part : Buiuni the Red did not: and 
I saw Illan without his head : but Buinni had neither 
wound nor hurt." 

" Alas, O beauteous princess," said Naisi, " thou 
utterest nought but evil forebodings : but the king is 
true and will not break his plighted word." 


So they fared on till they had come to the Ridge 
of the Willows,* an hour's journey from the palace : 
and Deirdre, looking upwards in great fear, said to 
Naisi : " O Naisi, see yonder cloud in the sky over 
Emain, a fearful chilling cloud of a blood-red tinge: 
a baleful red cloud that bodes disaster ! Come ye now 
to Dundalgan and abide there with the mighty hero 
Cuculainn till Fergus returns from Barach's feast ; for 
I fear Concobar's treachery." 

But Naisi answered : " We cannot follow thy 
advice, beloved Deirdre, for it would be a mark of 
fear : and we have no fear." 

And as they came nigh the palace Deirdre said to 
them : " I will now give you a sign if Concobar 
meditates good or evil. If you are brought into his 
own mansion where he sits surrounded by his nobles, 
to eat and drink with, him, this is a token that he 
means no ill; for no man will injure a guest that has 
partaken of food at his table : but if you are sent to 
the house of the Red Branch, be sure he is bent on 

When at last they arrived at the palaoe, they 
knocked loudly with the handwood : and the door- 
keeper swang the great door wide open. And when 
lie had spoken with them, he went and told Concobar 
that the sons of Usna and Fergus's two sons had come, 
with their people. 

And Conoobar called to him his stewards and 

* Irish name, Drum-Sailech ; the ridge on which Armagh was 
afterwards built. 


attendants and asked them : " How is it in the house 
of the Bed Branch as to food and drink ? " And they 
replied ithat if the seven battalions of Ulaid were to 
come to it, they would find enough of all good things. 
" If that is so," said Concobar, " take the sons of Usna 
and their people to the Red Branch." 

Even then Deirdre besought them not to enter the 
Bed Branch : for she deemed now that of a certainty 
there was mischief afoot. But Ulan the Fair said : 
" Never did we show cowardice or unmanliness, and 
we shall not do so now." Then she was silent and 
went with them into the house. 

And the company, when they had oome in, sat 
them down so that they filled the great hall : and 
alluring viands and delicious drinks were set before 
them : and they ate and drank till they became 
satisfied and cheerful : all except Deirdre and the 
Sons of Usna, who did not partake much of food or 
drink. And Naisi asked for the king's chessboard and 
chessmen ; whioh were brought : and he and Deirdre 
began to play. 



LET us now speak of Oonoobar. As he sat among his 
nobles, the thought of Deirdre came into his mind, 
and he said: "Who among you will go to the Red 
Branch and bring me tidings of Deirdre, whether her 


youthful shape and looks still live upon her : for if so 
there is not on the ridge of the world a woman more 
beautiful." And Lavaroam said she would go. 

Now the sons of Usna were very dear to 
Lavarcam : and Nalsi was dearer than the others. 
And rising up she went to the Red Branch, where she 
found Naisi and Deirdre with the chessboard between 
them, playing. And she saluted them affectionately : 
and she embraced Deirdre, and wept over her, and 
kissed her many times with the eagerness of her love : 
and she kissed the cheeks of Naisi and of his brothers. 

And when her loving greeting was ended, she 
said : " Beloved children, evil is the deed that is to 
be done this night in Emain : for the three torches of 
valour of the Gaels will be treacherously assailed, and 
Coucobar is certainly resolved to put them to death. 
And now set your people on guard, and bolt and bar 
all doors, and close all windows ; and be steadfast and 
valorous, and defend your dear charge man-fully, if 
you may hold the assailants at bay till Fergus comes." 
And she departed weeping piteously. 

And when Lavarcam had returned to Conoobar he 
asked what tidings she brought. " Good tidings have 
I," said she : " for the three sons of Usna have come, 
the three valiant champions of Ulaid : and now that 
they are with thee, king, thou wilt hold sway in 
Erin without dispute. And bad tidings I bring also : 
Deirdre indeed is not as she was, for her youthful 
form and the splendour of her countenance have fled 
from her." 


And vhen Concobar heard this, his jealousy abated, 
and he joined in the feasting. 

But again the thought of Deirdre came to him, 
and he asked : " Who now will go for me to the Red 
Branch, and bring me further tidings of Deirdre and 
of the sons of Usna?" for he distrusted Lavarcam. 
But the Knights of the Bed Branch had misgivings of 
some evil design, and all remained silent. 

Then he called to him Trendorn, one of the lesser 
chiefs : and he said : " Knowest thou, Trendorn, who 
slew thy father and thy three brothers in battle ? " 
And Trendorn answered: "Verily, it was. Naisi, the 
son of Usna, that slew them." Then the king said : 
" Gro now to the Bed Branch and bring me back 
tidings of Deirdre and of the sons of Usna." 

Trendorn went right willingly. But when he 
found the doors and windows of the Bed Branch shut 
up, he was seized with fear, and he said : " It is not 
safe to approach the sons of Usna, for they are surely 
in wrathful mood: nevertheless I must needs bring 
back tidings to the king." 

Whereupon, not daring to knock at the door, he 
climbed nimbly to a small window high up that had 
been unwittingly left open, through which he viewed 
the spacious banquet hall, and saw Naisi and Deirdre 
playing chess. Deirdre chanced to look up at that 
moment, and seeing the face of the spy with eyes 
intently gazing on her, she started with affright and 
grasped Naisi's arm, as he was making a move with 
the chessman. Naisi, following her gaze, and seeing 


the evil-looking face, flung the chessman with unerring 
aim, and broke the eye in Trendorn's head. 

Trendorn dropped down in pain and rage ; and 
going straight to Concobar, he said : " I have tidings 
for thee, king : the three sons of Usna are sitting 
in the banquet hall, stately and proud like kings : and 
Deirdre is seated beside Naisi ; and veril^ for beauty 
and queenly grace her peer cannot be found." 

When Concobar heard this, a flame of jealousy and 
fury blazed up in his heart, and he resolved that by no 
means should the sons of Usna escape the doom he 
planned for them. 



COMING forth on the lawn of Emain, King Conoobar 
now ordered a large body of hireling troops to beset 
the Red Branch : and he bade them force the doors 
and bring forth the sons of Usna. And they uttered 
three dreadful shouts of defiance, and assailed the 
house on every side ; but the strong oak stood bravely, 
and they were not able to break through doors or walls. 
So they heaped up great piles of wood and brambles, 
and kindled them till the red flames blazed round 
the house. 

Buinni the Red now stood up and said to the sons 
of Usna * " To me be entrusted the task to repel this 


first assault : for I am your pledge in place of my 
father." And marshalling his men, and causing the 
great door to be thrown wide open, he sallied forth and 
scattered the assailants, and put out the fires : slaying 
thrice fifty hirelings in that onslaught. 

But Buinni returned not to the Bed Branch : for 
the king sent to him with a secret offer of great favours 
and bribes : namely, his own royal friendship, and a 
fruitful tract of land ; which Buinni took and basely 
abandoned the sons of Usna. But none the better 
luck came to him of it : for at that same hour a blight 
fell on the land, so that it became a moor, waste and 
profitless, which is at this day called Slieve Fuad. 

When Ulan the Fair became aware of his brother's 
treason, he was grieved to the heart, and he said : 
" I am the second pledge in place of my father for the 
sons of Usna, and of a certainty I will not betray 
them : while this straight sword lives in my hand I 
will be faithful : and I will now repel this second 
attack." For at this time the king's hirelings were 
again thundering at the doors. 

Forth he issued with his band: and. he made three 
quick furious circuits round the Red Branch, scattering 
the troops as he went : after which he returned to the 
mansion and found Naisi and Deirdre still playing.* 
But as the hireling hordes returned to the attack, he 

* These champions, as well as their wives, took care never to show 
any signs of fear or alarm even in the time of greatest danger : so Naisi 
and Deirdre kept playing quietly as if nothing was going on outside, 
though they heard the din of battle resounding. 


went forth a second time and fell on them, dealing 
death and havoc whithersoever he went. 

Then, while the fight was still raging, Coucobar 
called to him his son Fiora, and said to him : " Thou 
and Ulan the Fair were born on the same night : and 
as he has his father's arms, so thou take mine, namely, 
my shield which is called the Ocean, and my two spears 
which are called Dart and Slaughter, and my great 
sword, the Blue-green blade. And bear thyself man- 
fully against him, and "vanquish him, else none of my 
troops will survive." 

Fiora did so and went against Ulan the Fair ; and 
they made a stout, warlike, red-wounding attack on 
each other, while the others looked on anxious : but 
none dared to interfere. And it came to pass that 
Ulan prevailed, so that Ficra was fain to shelter 
himself behind his father's shield the Ocean, and he was 
like to be slain. Whereupon the shield moaned, and 
the Three Waves of Erin uttered their hollow melan- 
choly roar.* 

*The "Three Tonni or Waves of Erin" were the Wave of Tuath 
outside the mouth of the river Barm, off the coast of Deny; the Wave 
of Kury in Dun drum Bay, off the county Down; and the Wave of 
Cleena in Glandore Harbour in the south of Cork. In stormy weather, 
when the wind blows from certain directions, the sea at those places, as 
it tumbles over the sandbanks, or among the caves and fissures of the 
rocks, utters a loud and solemn roar, which in old times was bolieved to 
forebode the death of some king. 

The legends also tell that the shield belonging to a king moaned 
when the person who wore it in battle whether the king himself or a 
member of his family was in danger of death : the moan was heard all 
over Ireland ; and the " Three Waves of Erin " roared in response. See 
" Irish Names of Places," Vol. II., Chap. XVI. 


The hero Oonall Carnagh, sitting in his dun afar 
off, heard the moan of the shield and the roar of the 
Wave of Tuath : and springing up from where he sat, 
he stiid : " Verily, the king is in danger : I will go to 
his rescue." 

He ran with the swiftness of the wind, and arrived 
on the Green of Emain, where the two young heroes 
were fighting. Thinking it was Conoobar that crouched 
beneath the shield, he attacked Ulan, not knowing him, 
and wounded him even unto death. And Ulan looking 
up said, " Is it thou, Conall ? Alas, dreadful is the 
deed thou hast done, not knowing me, and not knowing 
that I am fighting in defence of the sons of Usua, who 
are now in deadly peril from the treachery of 

And Conall, finding he had unwittingly wounded 
his dear young friend Illan, turned in his grief and 
rage on the other, and swept off his head. And he 
stalked fierce and silent out of the battlefield. 

Illan, still faithful to his charge, called aloud to 
Naisi to defend himself bravely : then putting forth 
his remaining strength, he flung his arms, namely, his 
8 word and his spears and his shield, into the Red 
Branch ; and falling prone on the green sward, the 
shades of death dimmed his eyes, and his life departed. 

And now when it was the dusk of evening, another 
great battalion of the hirelings assailed the Red 
Branch, and kindled fagots around it: whereupon 
Ardan sallied out with his valorous band and scattered 
them, and put out the fires, and held guard for the 


first third of the night. And during the second third 
Aiuuli kept them at bay. 

Then Naisi took his turn, issuing forth, and fought 
with them till the morning's dawn : and until the 
sands of the seashore, or the leaves of the forest, or the 
dew-drops on the grass, or the stars of heaven, are 
counted, it will not be possible to number the 
hirelings that were slain in that fight by Naisi and 
his band of heroes. 

And as he was returning breathless from the rout, 
all grimy and terrible with blood and sweat, he spied 
Lavarcam, as she stood watching the battle anxiously ; 
and lie said: " Go, Lavarcam, go and stand on the 
outer rampart, and cast thine eyes eastwards, if per- 
chance thou shouldst see Fergus and his men coming." 

For many of Naisi's brave followers had fallen in 
these encounters : and he doubted that he and the 
others could sustain much longer the continual 
assaults of superior numbers. And Lavarcam went, 
but returned downcast, saying she saw nought east- 
wards, but the open plain with the peaceful herds 
brovvsiug over it. 



BELIEVING now that they could no longer defend the 
Eed Branch, Naisi took council with his brothers ; and 
jwhat they resolved on was this : To sally forth with 
all their men and fight their way to a place of safety. 



Then making a close, firm fence of shields and spears 
round Deirdre, they marched out in solid ranks and 
attacked the hireling battalions and slew three hundred 
in that onslaught. 

Concobar, seeing the rout of his men, and being 
now sure that it was not possible to subdue the sons 
of Usua in open fight, cast about if he might take 
them by falsehood and craft. And sending for Caff a, 
the druid, who loved them, he said : 

" These sons of Usna are brave men, and it is our 
pleasure to receive them back into our service. Go 
now unto them, for thou art their loved friend ; and 
say to them that if they lay down their arms and 
submit to me, I will restore them to favour and give 
them their places among the Red Branch Knights. 
And I pledge thee my kingly word and my troth as a 
true knight, that no harm shall befall them/' 

Caffa, by no means distrusting him, went to the 
sons of Usna, and told them all the king had said. 
And thej% suspecting neither guile nor treachery, 
joyfully threw their swords and spears aside, and 
went towards the king to make submission. But now, 
while they stood defenceless, the king caused them to 
he seized and bound. Then, turning aside, he sought 
for some one to put them to death ; but he found no 
man of the Ultonians willing to do so. 

Among his followers was a foreigner named Maini 
of the Rough Hand, whose father and two brothers 
had fallen in battle by Naisi: and this man undertook 
to kill the sous of Usna. 


When they were brought forth to their doom, 
Arduu said: "I am the youngest: let me be slain 
first, that I may not see the death of my brothers." 
And Ainnli earnestly pleaded for the same thing for 
himself, saying that he was born before Ardan, and 
should die before him. 

But Naisi said : " Lo, I have a sword, the gift 
of Maunanan mac Lir, which leaves no remnant 
unfinished after a blow : let us be struck with it, all 
three together, and we shall die at the same moment." 

This was agreed to : and the sword was brought 
forth, and they laid their heads close together, and 
Maini swept off all three with one blow of the mighty 
sword. And when it became known that the sons of 
Usna were dead, the men of Ulaid sent forth three 
great cries of grief and lamentation. 

As for Deirdre, she cried aloud, and tore her golden 
hair, and became like one distracted. And after a 
time, when her calmness had a little returned, she 
uttered a lament : 


"Three lions of the hill are dead, and I am left 
alone to weep for them. The generous princes who 
made the stranger welcome have been guilefully lured 
to their doom. 


"The three strong hawks of Slieve Oullinn,* a 
king's three sous, strong and gentle : willing obedience 

* Slieve Cullinn, now Slievo Gullion mountain in Armagh. 


was yielded to them by heroes who had conquered 
many lands. 


Three generous heroes of the Bed Branch, who 
loved to praise the valour of others: three props of 
the battalions of Quelna : their fall is the cause of 
bitter grief. 


"Ainnli and Ardan, haughty and fierce in battle, 
to me were ever loving and gentle : Naisi, Naisi, 
beloved spouse of my choice, thou canst not hear thy 
Deirdre lamenting thee. 

" When they brought down the fleet red deer in the 
chase, when they speared the salmon skilfully in the 
clear water, joyful and proud were they if I looked ou. 

" Often when my feeble feet grew weary wander- 
ing along the valleys, and climbing the hills to view 
the chase, often would they bear me home lightly on 
ttieir linked shields and spears. 

"It was gladness of heart to be with the sons 
of Usna : long and weary is the day without their 
company : short will be my span of life since they have 
left me. 



" Sorrow and tears have dimmed my eyes, looking 
at the grave of Naisi : a dark deadly sickness has seized 
my heart : I cannot, I cannot live after Naisi. 


" thou who diggest the new grave, make it deep 
and wide : let it be a grave for four ; for I will sleep 
for ever beside my beloved." 

When she had spoken these words, she fell beside 
the body of Naisi and died immediately. And a great 
cairn of stones was piled over their grave, and their 
names were inscribed in Ogham, and their funeral rites 
were performed. 

This is the sorrowful tale of The Fate of the Sons 
of Usna. 


NOTE 1. The D'edannans. 

According to the old bardic legends, the first man who led a 
colony to Ireland after the Flood was Parthalon. Next came Nemed 
and his people ; and after these the Firbolgs, who were conquered 
and succeeded by the Dedannans. 

The legend relates that the Dedannans, in the course of their 
wanderings, spent some time in Greece, where they learned magic 
and other curious arts. From this they migrated to Lochlann. in 
the north of Europe (see note 6), from which they came through 
Scotland to their final resting-place, Ireland. 

From the three queens of their three last kings, Ireland got the 
three names, Erin, F5la, and Banba. 

After the Dedannans had held sway in Ireland for about two 
hundred years, they were in their turn conquered by the last and 
greatest colony of all, the people of Miled or Milesius, who are 
commonly known by the name of Milesians, and who are the 
ancestors of the leading Gaelic families of Ireland. The Milesians 
defeated the Dedannans in two great battles : one fought at Taill- 
tenn, now Teltown, on the river Blackwater, between Navau and 
Kells, in Meath ; and the other at Druim-Lighean, now Drumleene. 
about three miles from Lifford, in Donegal. 

In the legendary and romantic literature of Ireland, the 
Dedannans are celebrated as magicians. By the Milesians and 
their descendants they were regarded as gods, and ultimately, iu 
the imagination of the people, they became what are now in Ireland 
called " fairies." 

406 NOTES. 

After their defeat by the Milesians, they seem to have retired to 
remote and lonely places ; and their reputation as magicians, as 
well .is the obscure and mysterious manner in which they lived, 
gradually impressed the vulgar with the belief that they were 
supernatural beings. 

The notion was that they lived in splendid palaces in the 
interior of pleasant green hills. These hills were called sidh (pro* 
nounced shee) ; and hence the Dedannans were called Daoine-sidhe 
(Deena-shee), or people of the fairy hills ; Marcra-sidhe (Markra- 
shee), fairy cavalcade ; and Sluagh-sidhe (Sloo-shee), fairy host. 

Of this mysterious race, the following are the principal charac- 
ters mentioned in these tales. 

Mannanan Mac Lir, the Gaelic sea-god. In " Cormac's Glossary " 
(written A.D. 900), we are told that he was a famous merchant who 
resided in, and gave name to, Inis-Manann, or the Isle of Man ; 
that he was the best merchant in Western Europe; and that he 
used to know, by examining the heavens, the length of time the 
fair and the foul weather would last. 

The Dagda, whose name some interpret to mean " the great 
good fire," so called from his military ardour, who reigned as king 
of Ireland from A.M. 3370 to 3450. 

Angus or Angus Oge, the son of the Dagda, who lived at Bruglt 
or Bruga, on the north shore of the Boyne, a little below the village 
of Slane. Angus is spoken of as the wisest and the most skilled 
in magic of all the Dedannan race. 

Nuada of the Silver Hand. (See note 4.) 

Lir of Shee Finnaha, the fatheT of the four " Children of Lir," 
and Bove Derg of .Shee Bove, of whom we know little more than 
what is told of them in the " Fate of the Children of Lir." Shee 
Finnaha is supposed to have been situated near Newtown Hamil- 
ton, in Armagh ; and Shee Bove was on the shore of Lough Derg, 
on the Shannon. 

Luga of the Long Arms, who imposed the eric-fine on the three 
sons of Turenn for slaying his father Kian. (See note 7 for a 
further account of this Luga.) 

Dianket, the great physician, of whose powers of cure extra- 
ordinary stories are told. He had a son Midac, and a daughter 
Armedda, more skilful than himself. The old legend relates that 

NOTES. 457 

Midac took off the silver arm which his father DSanket had put on 
Nuada (see note 4), and, having procured the bones of the real arm, 
he clothed them with flesh and skin, and fixed the arm in its place 
as well as ever " in three moments." Dianket was so enraged at 
being outdone by his son that he slew him. After Midac had been 
buried for some time, three hundred and sixty-five healing herbs 
grew up from his grave, one from every joint and sinew of his bodj 
each herb to cure disease in that part of the human body from 
which it grew all which were gathered by his sister Armedda, 
and placed carefully in her cloak in their proper order. But before 
she had time to study their several virtues fully, her father 
Dianket mixed them all up in utter confusion. (O'Curry, Atlantis, 
vii. and viii. 158.) Were it not for this churlish proceeding, 
Armedda would have found out, and we should now know, the 
exact herb to cure each particular disease of the human frame. 

NOTE 2. The Feast of Age. 

This was also called the Feast of Gobnenn the Dedannan smith. 
It was instituted by Mannanan Mac Lir, and whoever was present 
at it, and partook of the food and drink, was free ever after from 
sickness, decay, and old age. 

NOTE 3. The Druids. 

The ancient Irish druids do not appear to have been priests in 
any sense of the word. They were, in popular estimation, men of 
knowledge and power " Men of science," as they were often 
designated; they knew the arts of healing and divination; and 
they were skilled above all in magic. In fact, the Irish druids were 
magicians, neither more nor less ; and hence the Gaelic word for 
" druidical " is almost always applied where we should use the term 
" magical " to spells, incantations, metamorphoses, etc. (See 
O'Curry, " Lectures on the Manners and Customs of the Ancient 
Irish," Lecture ix.) 

NOTE 4. Nuada of the Silver Hand. 

Nuada of the Silver Hand was king of Ireland, according to tho 
chronology of the Four Masters, from A.M. 3311 to 3330. He com- 
manded the Dedannans in the first battle of Moytura (see note 11). 

458 NOTES. 

where his arm was cut off with a sword-blow by Sreng, the great 
Firbolg champion. Afterwards Credne the artificer made him a 
silver arm with a hand, which was fixed on by Dianket, the physi- 
cian (see note 1). Nuada was slain in the second battle of Moytura, 
by Balor of the Mighty Blows (see note 11). 

NOTE 5. The Fomorians. 

" Fomor," the simple form of this word, means, according to 
the old etymologists, a sea-robber, from fo, on or along, and muir, 
the sea. The word is also used to denote a giant, or a gigantic 

The Fomorians of Irish, history were sea-robbers, who infested 
the coasts, and indeed the interior, of Ireland, for a long series ot 
years, and at one time fortified themselves in Tory Island. They 
are stated to have come to Ireland from Lochlann, in the north of 
Europe (for which see next note) ; but they were originally from 
Africa, being, according to the legend, the descendants of Ham the 
son of Noah. 

NOTE 6. Lochlann : The Lochlanns. 

Lochlann was the Gaelic designation of the country from which 
came the people who are known in European history as Danes, i.e. 
the country round the southern shores of the Baltic, including the 
south part of Sweden. The Lochlanns, or Lochlannachs, or Danes, 
it need hardly be said, make a very conspicuous figure in our early 
history, and in our mediaeval romantic literature. 

In the Gaelic tales, the chief city of Lochlann is always Berva ; 
but whether this represents a real name, or is merely an invention 
i>f the old story-tellers, I cannot tell. 

NOTE 7. Luga of the Long Arms : The Hdana. 

Luga of the Long Arms was the son of Ethlenn, daughter of the 
Fomorian king, Balor of the Mighty Blows (see note 9). His 
father, Kian (who was slain by the three sons of Turenn), was a 
Dedannan ; so that Luga was half Fomorian and half Dedannan. 
But he always took the side of the Dedannans against the 

NOTES. 459 

Luga is often called The Ildana, the Man of many sciences, to 
signify his accomplishments as a warrior and a man of general 

It had been foretold that Balor would be slain by his own 
grandson. Accordingly, when Luga was born, Balor sent him off to 
be drowned. But Luga escaped, and lived to revenge the unnatural 
conduct of his grandfather, whom he slew in the second battle of 
Moytura (see note 11), after Balor had slain the Dedannan king, 
Nuada of the Silver Hand. Luga succeeded Nuada as king of 
Ireland, and reigned, according to the chronology of the Foul 
Masters, from A.M. 3330 to 3370. 

It was by Luga that the celebrated yearly assembly of Tailltenn 
was instituted, in honour of his foster mother Taillte, after whom 
the place was called. (See note page 93, supra.) 

NOTE 8. The Land of Promise: Fairyland. 

In ancient Gaelic romantic tales, mention is often made of Tir 
Tairmgire, the Land of Promise, Fairyland, as being one of the 
chief dwelling-places of the Dedannans or fairy host. In many 
passages this Land of Promise is identified with Inis-Manann, or 
the Isle of Man, which was ruled over by Mannanan Mac Lir, the 
sea-god, and named from him. 

NOTE 9. Balor of the Mighty Blows. 

Balor was king of the Fomorians from Lochlann in the north ; 
his wife was Kethlenda ; and his son, Bres. Balor is often called 
Balor of the Mighty Blows ; and also Balor of the Evil Eye, for 
he had one eye which would strike people dead or turn them into 
stone, so that he kept it covered, except when he wished to use it 
against his enemies. Balor is remembered very vividly in tradition 
by the peasantry of Ireland, especially in Donegal and in Tory 
Island, where a very high, tower-like rock is called to this day 
Balor/s Castle. 

NOTE 10. Eric. 

The eric was a fine paid as compensation for murder or homicide 
The friends of the murdered person might accept an eric, or thev 

460 NOTES. 

might refuse it and seek instead the death of the murderer. Au 
eric was often paid for other crimes or injuries against the indi- 
vidual, as well as for homicide. 

NOTE 11. Battle of Moytura. 

There were two great battles, each called the battle of Moytura. 

First Battle of Moytwra. When the Dedannans came to invade 
Erin, they found the country occupied by the Firbolgs, who were 
by no means inclined to give up quiet possession to the new- 
comers. After some parleying and manoeuvring, a great battle 
was fought between them, A.M. 3303, at Moytura, near Cong, in 
Mayo, lasting for four days, in which the Firbolgs were defeated 
with great slaughter, and their king slain ; after which the 
Dedannans took possession of the country, leaving Connaught, 
however, to a powerful remnant of the Firbolgs who survived the 
battle. This is called the First Battle of Moytura, or the 
Battle of the Southern Moytura. On the plain where it was 
fought, there are still great numbers of mounds, cromlechs, and 
other sepulchral monuments. (See Sir William Wilde's "Lough 
Corrib," page 210.) 

Second Battle of Moytwra. King Nuada, who led the Dedan- 
nans in the first battle of Moytura, had his arm cut off by 
Sreng, one of the Firbolg champions. He was under cure for 
seven years ; during which time Bres, the son of Elatha, who was 
a Fomorian by his father and a Dedannan by his mother, ruled 
Ireland as regent. But at the end of the seven years, Bres had to 
retire in favour of Nuada. Whereupon he repaired in anger to 
his father in Lochlann ; and at his instigation an army of Fomorians 
was raised, after some years, for the invasion of Ireland, and placed 
under the command of Balor of the Mighty Blows. 

Luga of the Long Arms seems to have foreseen this invasion. 
He knew that Bres would have to abdicate whenever Nuada's arm 
came to be healed, and he conjectured truly that he would not 
resign the sovereignty without a struggle. But the old tales would 
lead to the inference that Luga had some preternatural fore- 
knowledge of the battle. Anyhow, the legend says that for many 
years he made preparations for the coming struggle; and it was 

NOTES. 461 

with this intention that he imposed the celebrated eric-fine on the 
sons of Turenn. 

The Fomorians landed, and were met by the Dedannan army 
at the Northern Moytura, or, as it is often called, Moytura of the 
Fomorians, situated in the parish of Kilmactranny, barony of Tirerrill, 
county Sligo. The battle was fought on the eve of Samin, i.e. on 
the last day of October, A.M. 3330 ; and the Fomorians were defeated 
with the slaughter of their principal men and the best part of their 
arrny. In the course of the battle, Nuada of the Silver Hand, the 
Dedannan king, was slain by Balor ; but soon after, Balor himself 
was killed by his grandson, Luga. Luga, we are told, flung a 
stone at him from a crann-tavall or sling (see note, page 240), and 
struck him in the evil eye with so much force that the stone went 
clean through his head and out at the back. 

The site of this battle, like that of the Southern Moytura, 
abounds to this day in sepulchral monuments. 

These two battles of Moytura form the subjects of two historic 
tales, which are still in existence, though they have never been 

NOTE 12. Gesa. 

" Gesa " (pronounced gessa, the g hard, as in gef) is plural : 
singular gets, plural geasa or gesa. Gesa means solemn vows, con- 
jurations, injunctions, prohibitions. " I put you under gesa " means, 
I adjure you solemnly, so solemnly that you dare not disobey. It 
would appear that individuals were often under gesa or solemn 
vows to observe, or to refrain from, certain lines of conduct the 
vows being either taken on themselves voluntarily, or imposed on 
them, with their consent, by others. Thus Dermat O'Dyna was 
under gesa never to pass through a wicket gate when entering or 
leaving a palace (page 282); Finn was under gesa not to sleep at 
Allen more than nine nights in succession (page 337) ; Dermat put 
Oisin under gesa not to loose any one whom he bound (page 312). 
It would appear, also, that if one person went through the form of 
putting another under gesa to grant any reasonable request, the 
abjured person could not refuse without loss of honour and reputa- 
tion. Thus Midac places Finn under gesa to come to the banquet 
in the Fairy Palace of the Quicken Trees (page 189); and the 

462 NOTES. 

witch-lady places gesa on Finn to search for the ring in the lake 
(page 354). And sometimes, on very solemn or urgent occasions, 
the gesa seem to have been imposed with spells, so as to draw down 
ill luck as well as loss of honour on the person who disregarded the 
iniunction (page 281). 

Geis or gesa also means a charm or spell. 

NOTE 13. Tir-fa-tonn. 

The Gaelic tales abound in allusions to a beautiful country 
situated under the sea an enchanted land sunk at some remote time, 
and still held under spell. In some romantic writings it is called 
Tir-fa-tonn, the land beneath the wave ; and occasionally one or 
more of the heroes find their way to it, and meet with many strange 
adventures (page 253). Sometimes it is O'Brasil, that dim land 
which appears over the water once every seven years " on the 
verge of the azure sea " and which would be freed from the spell, 
and would remain permanently over water, if any one couirf succeed 
in throwing fire on it. (See Gerald Griffin's beautiful ballad, 
" O'Brasil, the Isle of the Blest.") The Island of Fincara (page 87), 
and the beautiful country seen beneath the waves by Maildun 
(page 147), are remnants of the same superstition. 

This very old Celtic tradition is obviously the same as the 
legend of the continent of Atlantis, mentioned by Plato, which at 
some remote time was overwhelmed and sunk under the Atlantic 
Ocean. And it would seem that they have the same shadowy 
tradition in the East ; for in " Lalla Kookh " Moore makes the 
Peri say, in her soliloquy : 

" I know where the Isles of Perfume are, 
Many a fathom down in the sea, 
To the south of sun- bright Araby." 

NOTE 14. The Enchanted Well. 

Kes autem sic revera evenit. Cum Angus magus equum 
giganteum Eochaidio et popularibus traderet, monebat homines 
nee stabulandi neque omnino requiescendi copiam equo facien- 
dam ; ne forte quiescendo urinam demitteret, quod si fieret exitio 
omnibus fore. Postea vero quam at Planitiem Silvulse Cinerese 
pervenissent, intenti adeo sarcinis ingentis equi dorso detrahendis 

NOTES. 463 

incumbebant, ut monitorum Angi obliviscerentur ; restitit autem 
equus, et subinde urinam demisit. Extemplo hinc fons ortus ; 
qui cum scaturiisset, submersit omnes, sicuti in historia narratur. 

NOTE 15. Conal Carna of the Red Branch. 

The Red Branch Knights of Ulster, a sort of militia in the ser- 
vice of the monarch, much like the Fena of later date (see note 23), 
nourished in the first century of the Christian era. Their home 
was the palace of Emania, near the city of Armagh ; and they 
received their name from one of the houses of the palace in which 
they resided, which was called Craebh-ruadh, or Red Branch. 
They attained their greatest glory in the reign of Conor Mac Nessa, 
king of Ulster in the first century ; and Conal Carna, mentioned 
in the story of "Liban the Mermaid," was one of their most 
illustrious champions. 

NOTE 16. Ecca the Son of Marid : Comgall of Bangor. 

This Marid was king of Munster about the beginning of the 
second century of the Christian era. St. Comgall, one of the greatest 
saints of the early Irish Church, flourished in the sixth century, and 
was the founder of the celebrated monastery of Bangor in the 
county of Down. 

NOTE 17. Curragh. 

It would appear that in Ireland, and indeed in England and 
Scotland as well, navigation was carried on in ancient times chiefly 
by means of curraghs. The curragh was a boat or canoe, con- 
sisting of a light framework of wood, covered over with the skins of 
animals. Curraghs are still used on many parts of the western 
coast of Ireland; but they are now covered with tarred canvas 
instead of skins. 

NOTE 18. Conn the Hundred-fighter. 

Conn Ced-cathach or Conn the Fighter of a Hundred (not 
Conn of the Hundred Battles, as the name is generally translated), 
was king of Ireland from A.D. 123 to 158. 

-.64 NOTES. 

NOTE 19. Land of the Living : Land of Life, etc. 

The ancient Irish had a sort of dim, vague belief that there was 
a land where people were always youthful, and free from care and 
trouble, suffered no disease, and lived for ever. This country they 
called by various names : Tir-na-mbeo, the land of the [ever-]living; 
Tir-na-nog, the land of the [ever-]youthful ; Moy-Mett, the pkin of 
pleasure, etc. It had its own inhabitants fairies ; but mortals were 
sometimes brought there ; and while they lived in it, were gifted 
with the everlasting youth and beauty of the fairy people them- 
selves, and partook of their pleasures. As to the exact place whera 
Tirnanoge was situated, the references are shadowy and variable , 
but they often place it far out in the Atlantic Ocean, as far as the 
eye can reach from the high cliffs of the western coast. And here 
it is identical with O'Brasil, of which mention has been made in 
note 13. 

I have already remarked (see note 1) that the fairies were also 
supposed to live in palaces in the interior of pleasant green hills, 
and that they were hence called Aes-shee or Deena-shee, i.e. people of 
the shee or fairy hills ; and hence also the word " banshee " i.e. a 
woman (bean) of the fairy hills. Tirnanoge was often regarded as 
identical with these bright, subterranean palaces. In my boyhood 
days, the peasantry believed that the great limestone cavern near 
Mitchelstown, in the county Cork, was one of the entrances to 

NOTE 20. St. Brendan of Sirra. 

1 have already, in the preface (page xiii.), spoken of the celebrated 
voyage of St. Brendan of Birra (Birr, in King's County), undertaken 
in the sixth century. He set out from near Brandon Mountain, in 
Kerry, sailing westwards into the Atlantic Ocean, and, according ta 
the belief of some, landed on the shore of America. He had many 
imitators, who ventured out on the great ocean in their curraghs as 
pilgrims ; but none were so enterprising as himself, or met with 
such a variety of strange lands, if we except Maildun and the three 
sons of O'Corra, whose adventures are quite as surprising as those 
<rf Brendan. 

NOTES. 465 

NOTE 21. Brendan's Satchel. 

The ancient Irish saints, when on their missionary journeys 
through the country, kept their precious books, as well as the 
portable sacred utensils, in leather satchels, which they brought 
with them from place to place. These satchels were often highly 
ornamented, and, like other relics, were held in extraordinary vene- 
ration after the death of the owners. The Gaelic term for this 
kind of satchel is polaire. (See Petrie, " Round Towers," page 336.) 

NOTE 22. Oormac Mac Art. 

Oormac Mac Art, the most illustrious of the Irish kings, who 
. began his reign A.D 254, was the son of Art the Lonely, who was 
son of Conn the Hundred-fighter. During his reign flourished the 
Fena or militia, spoken of in the next note ; and the old chroniclers 
never tire of dwelling on the magnificence of his court at Tara, and 
the prosperity of the country during his reign. He was renowned 
for learning and wisdom, and he wrote a book called Tegusc-righ, or 
instruction for kings, copies of which are extant in the Books oi 
Leinster and Ballymote. He also caused the records of the king- 
dom to be collected and written down in one great book called 
the Psalter of Tara, but no portion of this book is now known to 
exist ; and he established three schools at Tara one for military 
science, one for law, and one for history and chronology. He spent 
the last years of his life in retirement and study at Cletty on the 
Boyne, and died A.D 277, forty years after he had ascended the 

NOTE 23. Finn and the Fena 

The Fena or " Fena of Erin" were a sort of militia or standing 
army, permanently maintained by the monarch for the support of 
the throne, and regularly trained to military service. They 
attained their greatest glory in the reign of Cormac Mac Art (see 
previous note). Each province had its own militia under its own 
captain, but all were under the command of one general-in-chief. 
Their most renowned commander was Finn the son of Cumal, who 
of all the heroes of ancient Ireland is most vividly remembered in 
popular tradition. Finn had his palace on the top of the Hill ol 

466 NOTES. 

Allen, a remarkable flat-topped hill, lying about four miles to the 
right of the railway as you pass Newbridge and approach Kildare, 
rendered more conspicuous of late years by a tall pillar erected 
on the top, on the very site of Finn's palace. Before the erection 
of the pillar, there were considerable remains of the old fort on the 
hill, but at present nearly every vestige is obliterated, cleared away 
partly to make room for the foundation of the pillar, and partly by 
cultivation ; for the land has been tilled and cropped to the very 
summit. The whole neighbourhood, however, teems with living 
traditions of Finn and the Fena. 

The Fena were divided into distinct tribes or clanns, belonging 
to the several provinces, each under its own commander. Of 
these, the Clann Baskin of Leinster, under the immediate command 
of Finn ; and the Clann Morna of Connaught, commanded by Gaul 
Mac Morna, were rival tribes, and, for reasons stated in note 27, 
regarded each other with hatred and distrust. 

The following are some of the principal characters celebrated in 
the romantic literature of the Fena. 

Finn the son of Cumal, commander-in-chief of the Fena under 
king Cormac Mac Art (see note 22) ; brave, wise, and far-seeing, a man 
of supreme military ability. His foresight seemed so extraordinary, 
that the people believed it was a preternatural gift of divination, 
and the shanachies invented a legend to account for it (see note 25). 
Like many great commanders, he had a little of the tyrant in his 
character, and was unforgiving to those who injured him. But in 
the story of Dermat and Grania, he is drawn in too unfavourable 
a light. In his old age he was killed by a fisherman at a place 
called Athbrea on the Boyne, A.D. 284-, as recorded in the Annals 
of Tighernach, of the Four Masters, and of Innisfallen. 

Oisin or Ossian, Finn's son, the renowned hero-poet, to whom 
the bards attribute many poems still extant. 

Oscar, the son of Oisin, youthful and handsome, kind-hearted, 
and one of the most valiant of the Fena. 

Dermat O'Dyna, noble-minded, generous, of untarnished honour, 
and the bravest of the brave. He was as handsome as he was 
valiant, whence he is often styled Dermat of the Bright Face, 
Dermat of the White Teeth, etc. He was the idol of the ladies of 
Ireland, and hence he is often called Dermat-na-man, or Dermat of 

NOTES. 467 

the Women (page 210). The Munster traditions represent him 
as a native of Kerry ; but he was in reality a Leinsterman, though 
his descendants migrated to Munster at a very early period. 
Mr. O'Grady, in his edition of the story of Dermat and Grania 
(page 294), has given an ancient poetical genealogy of Dermat. 
This hero is equally celebrated in popular story in the Highlands 
of Scotland. According to Highland tradition, the great and 
illustrious Clann Campbell, represented by the Duke of Argyll, 
descend from him ; and their crest is- a boar's head, in memory of 
the manner of Dermat's death.* Dermat O'Dyna is, on the whole, 
the finest type of hero among the Fena as fine indeed as can be 
found in any literature; and his noble character is very well 
maintained throughout the Ossianic tales. 

Kylta Mac Ronan, Finn's nephew, renowned for his fleetness 
of foot. 

Dering, the son of Dobar O'Baskin, who was not only a brave 
warrior, but also " a man of knowledge," gifted with some insignt 
into futurity. 

Ligan Lumina, also celebrated for swiftness of foot. 

Fergus Finnvel, poet, warrior, and frequent adviser of the Fena. 

Gaul Mac Morna, the leader of the Clann Morna or Connaught 
Fena, one of the mightiest of all the heroes. He served under Finn, 
but the two chiefs bore no love to each other, for Gaul had slain 
Finn's father, Cumal, in the battle of Knocka (see note 27). 

Conan Mail or Conan the Bald, the best-marked and best-sus- 
tained character in the Ossianic romances ; large- bodied, a great 
boaster, a great coward, and a great glutton. He had a venomous 
tongue, and hardly ever spoke a good word of any one. He be- 
longed to the Clann Morna, and was always reviling the Clann 
Baskin. He was the butt for the gibes and mockery of the Fena, 
but they dreaded his foul tongue. The story-tellers never lose an 
opportunity of having a fling at Conan, and of turning him into 
ridicule for his cowardice, nis big talk, and his gluttony. 

* For a full account of the Highland traditions regarding Dermat, 
and of the Highland monuments that commemorate his name, see 
" Loch Etive and the Sons of Uisnach" (p. 255), a very valuable and 
interesting book, recently published, which came into my hands after 
I had written the above. 

468 NOTES. 

Nora 24. Cooking-Placa. 

The Fena, as related in the beginning of the story of the Gilla 
Dacker, were quartered on the principal householders during the 
winter half-year ; and maintained themselves chiefly by the chase 
during the summer months. When they were on their hunting 
expeditions, we are told that they ate only one meal a day ; and 
for this meal they cooked the flesh of the animals brought down in 
the chase, in the following manner. They first dug a deep pit in 
the earth near their camping-place, and, having lighted a great fire 
beside it, they heated a number of round stones. They next 
covered the bottom of the pit with the hot stones, on which they 
placed the meat, bound up with sedge and grass ropes, and on this 
again they put another layer of heated stones ; and, having closely 
covered up the whole with branches, they let it stand till the meat 
was sufficiently cooked. The remains of these old earth-ovens are 
still to be seen, and are called by the peasantry fulachta-na-bhfiann, 
the cooking-places of the Fena. 

NOTE 25. Finn's Tooth of Knowledge. 

It had been prophesied of old that a man named Finn would 
be the first to eat of the salmon of knowledge, which swam in the 
pool of Linn-Fee, in the Boyne (near the present village of Slane) ; 
and that he would thereby obtain the gifts of knowledge and of 
divination. A certain old poet named Finn, knowing this, hoped 
that he might be the lucky man ; so he took up his abode on the 
shore of Linn-Fee ; and he fished in the pool every day from morn 
till night, in the hope of catching the salmon of knowledge. At 
this time, Finn the son of Cumal was a boy, fleeing from place 
to place from his hereditary enemies, the Clann Morna, disguised, 
and bearing the assumed name of Demna ; and, happening to come 
Vo Linn-Fee, the old poet took him as his servant. 

After long watching and waiting, Finn the poet hooked the 
salmon at last, and gave it to Demna to broil, warning him very 
strictly not to eat or even taste of it. Demna proceeded to broil 
the 'fish ; and soon the heat of the fire raised a great blister from its 
side, which the boy pressed with his thumb to keep it down, thereby 
scalding himself so severely that he unthinkingly thrust his thumb 
into his mouth. 

NOTES. 469 

When the salmon was cooked, the poet asked Demna had he 
eaten of it. " No," replied the boy ; " but I scalded my thumb on 
the fish, and put it into my mouth." "Thy name is not Demna, 
but Finn," exclaimed the poet : " in thee has the prophecy been 
fulfilled ; and thou art now a diviner and a man of knowledge ! " 

In this manner Finn obtained the gift of divination, so thai 
ever after, when he wished to look into futurity, he put his thumV 
under his tooth of knowledge, as he did when cooking the salmon 
of Linn-Fee, and the whole future was revealed to him. There 
appears to have been some sort of ceremony used, however (see 
page 339, supra') ; and it would seem that the process was attended 
with pain (page 194), so that it was only on very solemn and 
trying occasi' >us he put his thumb under his tooth of knowledge.* 

NOTE 26. The Game of Chess. 

Chess-playing was one of the favourite amusements of the 
ancient Irish chiefs. The game is constantly mentioned in the 
very oldest Gaelic tales ; as, for instance, in the " Cattle-Spoil of 
Cooley," in "The Book of the Dun Cow" (A.D. 1100). (See 
O'Donovan's " Introduction to the Book of Eights," page Ixi.) 

NOTE 27. Battle of Knocka. 

The battle of Knocka or Onucha (now Castleknock, near Dublin) 
was fought in the reign of Conn the Hundred-fighter (see note 18). 

* The above legend is taken from " The Boyish Exploits of Finn 
Mac Carnal," published, with translation, by John O'Donovan, LL.D., 
in the fourth volume of the Ossianio Society's Transactions, from a 
MS. transcribed in 1453, now lying in the Bodleian Library at Oxford. 
But the internal evidence of the language shows that the piece is far 
more ancient than the fifteenth century. The legend of Finn and 
the Salmon of Knowledge is still current among the peasantry ; and 
a modern popular version of it may be seen in the Dublin Penny 
Journal, Vol. I. page 110. 

As to the process of putting his thumb under his tooth of know- 
ledge, even the English-speaking peasantry of the south still retain 
a tradition that it was painful ; for they say that Finn " chewed his 
thumb from the skin to the flesh, from the flesh to the bone, from 
the bone to the marrow, and from the marrow to the smoosagh." 

470 NOTES. 

The contending parties were, on the oae side, Conn with his royal 
forces, and the renowned hero, Gaul Mac Morna, with his Connaught 
Fena,the Clanu Morna ; and on the other side, Cumal, the father of 
Finn, with the Clann Baskin and the Leinster forces in general, aided 
by Owen More, heir to the throne of Munster, with a large army of 
Munstermen. The Leinster and Munster armies were defeated, 
chiefly through the valour of Gaul, who slew Cumal with his own 
hand. This was the cause of the irreconcilable enmity that existed 
ever after between the Clann Baskin and the Clann Morna. 

When Finn the son of Cumal grew up to man's estate, he 
succeeded to the position held by his father as leader of the Fena. 
But though he made peace with Gaul Mac Morna, and though Gaul 
submitted to his command, there was always a feeling of ill-concealed 
hatred and distrust between them. 

NOTE 28. Battle of Gavra. 

When Carbri of the Liffey, son of Cormac Mac Art, ascended 
the throne of Ireland, one of his first acts was to disband and outlaw 
the Clann Baskin ; and he took into his service in their place their 
rivals and deadly enemies, the Clann Morna from Connaught. 
Whereupon the Clann Baskin marched southwards, and entered 
the service of Fercorb, king of Munster, Finn's grandson, in direct 
disobedience to king Carbri's commands. This led to the bloody 
battle of Gavra, celebrated in Ossianic literature, which was fought 
A.D. 284, at Garristown, in the north-west of the county Dublin, 
where the rival clanns slaughtered each other almost to annihilation. 
In the heat of the battle, Carbri and Oscar met in single combat ; 
and, after a long and terrible fight, the heroic Oscar fell pierced by 
Carbri's spear, and died on the evening of the same day. But 
Carbri himself was dreadfully wounded ; and, while retiring from 
vhe field, his own kinsman, Semeon, whom he had previously 
banished from Tara, fell on him, and despatched him with a single 

This battle is the subject of a poem which the bards ascribe to 
Oisin, and which has been published, with translation, in the first 
volume of the Ossianic Transactions. In this poem there is an 
affecting description of the death of Oscar, surrounded by his few 
surviving companions, and in presence of his father Oisin. 




Every writer who attempts to popularise the Gaelic literature of 
Ireland and Scotland, finds the proper names a serious difficulty. 
If they are given in their original Gaelic forms, they are not un 
frequently unpronounceable and repulsive to the English reader , 
if they are written phonetically, they are often strange and barbarous 
looking. In this book, I have not followed any general principle 
in reducing the names to forms suitable to readers of English. I 
have dealt with each, as it were, on its own merits. Sometimes 
very often, indeed I have given the original spelling ; some- 
times I have given the names phonetically ; and frequently I have 
mixed the two modes. But all through I have avoided any great 
departure from the original forms, as will be seen by a glance 
at the following list. 

In all cases the names occurring through the book may be 
pronounced just as the letters would indicate to the English reader. 

Aed, Aedh, a flame of fire. 

Ahaclee, Ath-cliath, hurdle-ford. 

Ailna, Ailne, beauty, joy. 

Aina, Aine. 

Allil, Ailiott, Ailell, or Oilioll. 

Allil Ocar Aga, AH, eU Ochair Ago.. 

Alva, Ailbhe. 

Balor, Balar. 

Baskin, Baoisene. 

Begallta, Beagalltach, little fury. 

Ben-Damis, Beann-Damhuis. 

Beoc, Bete, Dabhedc, and Beodn. 

Berva, Berbhe. 

Borba, Borb, proud. 

Bran, Bran, a raven. 

Bres, Ureas. 

Brian, Brian. 

Brickna, Briccns. 

Bruga of the Boyne, Brugh-tta- 

Canta, Cainte. 
Carn-Arenn, Carnn-Airenn 
Carricknarone, Carraic-na-r<fn, 

the rock of the seals. 
Clann Navin, Clann-Neamhuinn. 
Cloghan Kincat, Clochan-chiun- 

chait, the stepping-stones of the 

cat's head. 
Coil Croda, Cael-crodha, the 

slender valiant [man]. 
Colga, Colga. 

Colman, Colman, little dove. 
Comgall, ComhgJiall. 
Conal Carna, Conall Cernach. 
Conan Mail, Conan Mad, Conan 

the Bald. 



Jonang, Conaing. 

Conn the Hundred-fighter (not 

Conn of the Hundred Battles, 

as it is usually translated), 

Connla, Connla. 
Coran, Coran. 
Cormac Mac Art, Cormao Mac 

Corr the Swift-footed, Coir Co- 


Cuan, Cuan or Cuadhan. 
Culand, Culand. 
Curnan the Simpleton, Curnan 

Curoi Mao Dara, Curoi Mac 


Dagda, Dagda. 
Dara Bonn, Ddire Donn. 
Darvra, Lake, Loch Dairbhreach, 

the lake of oaks. 
Dathkeen, Dathchaoin, bright- 

Decca, Deoch. 

Dedannans, Tuatha De Danann. 
Derdri of the Black Mountain, 

Deirdre Duibhshleibhe. 
Bering, Diorraing. 
Dermat O'Byna, Diarmait 

Dianket, Diancecht. 
Diuran Lekerd, Diuran Lecerd. 
Dobar O'Baskin, Dobhar 


Dooclone, Dubhchluain, dark- 
coloured meadow. 
Dord-Fian, Dord-Fiann. 
Dryantore, DraoigJieanttHr. 
Ducoss, Dubhchosach, black-foot. 
Eas-Dara, Eaf-Dara. 
Ebb, Eab. 
Ebliu, JLbliu. 
Ehric, Aibhrio. 

Ecca, Eochaidh, a horseman. 

Enbarr, Aenbharr, splendid mane. 

Encoss, Aenchos, one foot. 

Ethnea, Eft/me, sweet nut-kemel. 

Etta, Eitche. 

Eva, Aeife. 

Eve, Aebh. 

Failinis, Failinis. 

Fatha Conan, Fatha Chonain. 

Femin, Feimeann. 

Fena, I'ianna. 

Ferdana, Fearddna. 

Fergor, Fearghoir, manly or 
strong voice. 

Fergus, Fearghu8,mtin\.j strength. 

Fiaca Findamnas, Fiacha Fin- 

Fiona, Fiachna, little raven. 

Ficra, Fiachra. 

Fincara, Fianchaire. 

Fincoss, Finnchosach, white-foot. 

Finn, Finn or Fionn, fair haired. 

Finnin, Finghm, fair offspring. 

Finola, Fionnghuala, white shoul- 

Flidas, Flidai. 

Foltlebar, Folt-leabhar, long hair. 

Frevan, Freamhainn. 

Ga-boi, Ga-buidhe, yellow javelin. 

Ga-derg t Gu-dearg, red javelin. 

Gael Glas, Gaodhal-Glas. 

Garva, Garbh, rough. 

Gaul Mac Morna, Gott Mao 

Germane, Germane. 

Gilla Backer, Giotta Deacair, 
lazy fellow. 

Glanlua, Glanluadh, pure-bpokcn. 

Glas Mac Encarda, Glai Hoe 

Glore, Glor, a voice. 

Ilbrec, Ilbhreuch. 

Ildana, loldhannsk. 



Inis Glora, Inis Gluaire. 
Innia, Innia. 
Innsa, Inse. 

Inver-tre-Kenand, I*bhr-Tn- 
Iraun, Irann. 
Iroda, loruaidhe. 
Irros Domnann, lorrus Domnann. 
Island of the Torrent, Inis Tuile. 
Kemoc, Caemhoo or Mochoemhoc. 
Kenn-Avrat, Ceann-Abhrat. 
Kenri, Caenraighe. 
Kethen, Cethen. 
Kethlenda, CeitUeann or Ceith- 


Kian, Cian. 
Kylta Mac Eonan, Caeilte Mao 


Largnen, Lairgnen. 
Lavaran, Lcbharam. 
Liban, Liban. j 

Lidas, Liadhas. 
Ligan Lumina, Liagan Ljaim- \ 

neach, Ligan the Bounding. 
Lir, Lir. 
Lobas, Lobais. 
Loclilann, Lochlann. 
Loskenn of the Bare Knees, 

Loiscinn Lomghltiineach. 
Luath, Luaith, swift. 
Luga of the Long Arms, Lugh 


Mac-an-Lona, Mac an-Luin. 
Mac Luga, Mao Luigheach. 
Mac-na-Corra, ZHac-na-Corra. 
Maildun, Mail Duin, chief of the 


Manissa, Maighneis. 
Mannanan Mac Lir, Manannan 

Mao Lir. 
Marid Mac Carido, Mairid Mac 

Mergah, Meargaek. 

Micorta, Miodhchuarta. 
Midao, Miodhach or Mioch. 
Midir, Midhir. 
Midkena, Miodhchaoin. 
Milucra, Miluchradh. 
Modan, Muadhan. 
Morallta, Moralltach, great fury. 
Moyle, Mael, a bare hill. 
Moy-Mell, Magh-Mell, plain o\ 

Moytura, Magh-tuireadh, plain 

of towers. 

Muman, Mumha, gen. Mumhan. 
Muridach, Muridach. 
Murthemna, Muirthemhne. 
Niam, Niamh, beauty. 
Nuada of the Silver Hand, 

Nuadha Airgeatlaimh. 
Nuca, Nuca. 

Oisin, Oi&in (pronounced Isheen' 
in Minister, and Osh'in in 
Ulster and in Scotland). 
Oscar, Oscar. 

Owenaght, Eoghanacht, descend- 
ants of Owen. 
Pezar, Pisear. 
Racad, Rachadh. 
Rib, Rib. 

Sencab, Seanchab, old mouth. 
Sharvan, Searbhan, a surly 


Skeabrac, Sciath-bhreac, speckled 


Skolan, Sceolaing. 
Slana, Sldnach, healthy. 
Sorca, Sorcha. 
Sotal of the Large Heels, 8ota( 


Taillkenn, Tailcenn. 
Tinna the Mighty, Tinne Mtir. 
Tir-fa-tonn,2'tr-/a-<Auin, country 
beneath the wave. 


Tirnanoge, Tir na n-dgr, land of Triscadal. Triscadnl 
youths. j Tuis, Tuit. 

Trencoss, Treunchosach, strong- j Turenn, Tuireann. 
foot. I Ur, Var. 

Trenmore O'Baakin, Treunmdr ] Urcar, Urchar. 


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